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Title: The Awakening of Spring
A Tragedy of Childhood
Author: Frank Wedekind
Translator: Francis J. Ziegler
Release Date: February 11, 2011 [EBook #35242]
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THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
BOOKS BY FRANK WEDEKIND
_Published by_ BROWN BROTHERS
THE AWAKENING OF SPRING.
A Tragedy of Childhood
Net, $1.25. By mail, $1.35
SUCH IS LIFE. A Play in Five Acts
Net, $1.25. By mail, $1.34
RABBI EZRA AND THE VICTIM.
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THE GRISLEY SUITOR. A Story
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The Awakening of Spring
A TRAGEDY OF CHILDHOOD
_Translated from the German by Francis J. Ziegler_
A PROEM FOR PRUDES
That it is a fatal error to bring up children, either boys or girls,
in ignorance of their sexual nature is the thesis of Frank Wedekind's
drama “Frühlings Erwachen.” From its title one might suppose it a
peaceful little idyl of the youth of the year. No idea a could be
more mistaken. It is a tragedy of frightful import, and its action is
concerned with the development of natural instincts in the adolescent
of both sexes.
The playwright has attacked his theme with European frankness; but of
plot, in the usual acceptance of the term, there is little. Instead
of the coherent drama of conventional type, Wedekind has given us a
series of loosely connected scenes illuminative of character--scenes
which surely have profound significance for all occupied in the
training of the young. He sets before us a group of school children,
lads and lassies just past the age of puberty, and shows logically
that death and degradation may be their lot as the outcome of
parental reticence. They are not vicious children, but little ones
such as we meet every day, imaginative beings living in a world of
youthful ideals and speculating about the mysteries which surround
them. Wendla, sent to her grave by the abortive administered with the
connivance of her affectionate but mistaken mother, is a most lovable
creature, while Melchior, the father of her unborn child, is a high
type of boy whose downfall is due to a philosophic temperament, which
leads him to inquire into the nature of life and to impart his
knowledge to others; a temperament which, under proper guidance,
would make him a useful, intelligent man. It is Melchior's very
excellence of character which proves his undoing. That he should be
imprisoned as a moral degenerate only serves to illustrate the
stupidity of his parents and teachers. As for the suicide of Moritz,
the imaginative youth who kills himself because he has failed in his
examinations, that is another crime for which the dramatist makes
false educational methods responsible.
A grim vein of humor is exhibited now and then, as when we are
introduced to the conference room in which the members of a gymnasium
faculty, met to consider the regulation of their pupils' morals, sit
beneath the portraits of Pestalozzi and J. J. Rousseau disputing with
considerable acrimony about the opening and shutting of a window. The
exchange of unpleasant personalities is interrupted only by the
entrance of the accused student, to whose defense the faculty refuses
to listen, having marked the boy for expulsion prior to the formal
farce of his trial.
Wedekind has been accused of depicting his adults as too ignorant and
too indifferent to the needs of the younger generation. But most of
us will have to admit that the majority of his scenes and characters
seem very true to life.
“Frühlings Erwachen” may not be pleasant reading exactly, but there
is no forgetting it after one has perused it; there is an elemental
strength about it which grips the intellect. As a play it stands
unique in the annals of dramatic art. That it has succeeded in
attracting much attention abroad is shown by the fact that this drama
in book form has gone through twenty-six editions in its original
version and has been translated into several European tongues,
Russian included, while stage performances of the work have been
given in France as well as in Germany.
The Teutonic grimness of the work puzzled the Parisians, who are not
used to having philosophy thrust at them over the footlights; but in
Germany “Frühlings Erwachen” proved much more successful. In Berlin,
indeed, it has become part of the regular stock of plays acted at
“Das Neue Theater,” where it is said to be certain of drawing a
crowded audience. That the play is radically different from anything
given on the American stage is undoubtedly true. It must be
remembered, however, that the Continental European playwright regards
the stage as a medium of instruction, as well as a place of
amusement. The dictum of the Swedish dramatist, August Strindberg,
that the playwright should be a lay priest preaching on vital topics
of the day in a way to make them intelligible to mediocre intellects,
is not appreciated in this country as it should be; but once admit
the kinship of dramatist and priest, and the position taken by
Wedekind in writing “Frühlings Erwachen” becomes self-evident. There
should be no question concerning the importance of his topic, nor
should it be forgotten that the evident lesson he seeks to inculcate
is one now preached by numerous ethical teachers. In order to
estimate the relationship of this play toward modern thought in
Germany, it must be understood that Wedekind's tragedy is merely one
of the documents in a paper war which has resulted at last in having
the physiology of sex taught in many German schools. The fact that
Wedekind's dialogue is frank to a remarkable degree only makes his
preachment more effective: “One does not cure the pest with attar of
roses,” as St. Augustine remarked.
Conditions in this country are not so very different from those
depicted in this play, and evidence is not lacking that gradually,
very gradually, we are beginning to realize that ignorance and
innocence are not synonymous; that an evil is not palliated by
ignoring its existence; the Podsnappian wave of the hand has not
disappeared entirely, but it is not quite as fashionable as of yore.
All things considered, the moment seems appropriate for the
publication, of “Frühlings Erwachen” in an English version. The
translation given in this volume follows the German original as
closely as the translator can reconcile the nature of the two
Considered as a work of literature, “Frühlings Erwachen” is
remarkable as one of the few realistic studies of adolescence. Its
deceptive simplicity is the hall mark of that supreme literary
ability which knows how to conceal art by art. Dealing with
adolescence, an unformed period of human life, it is necessarily
without the climaxes we expect in dramas in which the characters are
adult, and the gruesome scene in the churchyard with which the play
closes--a scene with such peculiar symbolism could spring only from a
Teutonic imagination--leaves much unended.
It is interesting to note, by the way, that Wedekind himself appears
as the Masked Man when “Frühlings Erwachen” is given in Berlin, a
fact which gives this scene somewhat the nature of a _parabasis_.
Frank Wedekind's name is just beginning to be heard in America. In
Germany he has been recognized for some time as one of the leaders in
the new art of the theatre. Naturally enough, his plays are too
outspoken in their realism to appeal to all his fellow-countrymen.
But, if certain Germans reject this mental pabulum, others become
intoxicated by it, and, waxing enthusiastic with a flow of language
almost bacchic, hail Wedekind as the forerunner of a new drama--as a
power destined to infuse fresh strength into the German stage. “With
this drink in its body,” writes one admirer, “the public will never
more endure lyrical lemonade, nor the dregs of dramatic penury.”
Again, these enthusiasts compare Wedekind's work to that of the
pre-Shakesperian dramatists, or even to that of the Bard of Avon
himself, both of which comparisons are difficult to grasp by an
English-speaking student of the British drama.
Wedekind, it is true, has a habit of using the news of the day as
material for plays, just as the old English dramatists did when they
wrote “domestic tragedies.” He has a fondness, moreover, for gruesome
situations such as we can imagine appealing to the melancholy genius
of Webster; but of the childlike simplicity which marks much of the
Elizabethan drama there is not a particle.
Certainly there is no trace of the gentle romanticism which one finds
in some of the other modern German realists. Gerhart Hauptmann can
turn from the grim task of dramatizing starvation, as he does in “Die
Weber,” to indulge in the naïve Christian symbolism of “Hannele,” or
the mythological poetry of “Die Versunkene Glocke.” Even the
iconoclast Strindberg writes romantically at times, and gives us
something resembling Maeterlinck; but when Wedekind departs from pure
realism his fancy creates a Gothic nightmare of horrors, peopled with
such terrifying creatures as the headless suicide wandering amid the
Wedekind's kinship to the dramatists of the “domestic tragedies” is
shown clearly in the tragedy “Musik,” which deals with a phase of
music study only too common in Germany. It is asserted that of the
thousands of students of music in that country not one in a hundred
amounts to anything artistically, while of those who master their art
not one in a thousand is capable of profiting financially by it. It
is this condition of affairs which gives additional importance to
this recent work of Wedekind.
“Musik” is described by the author as a depiction of morals in four
pictures (“Sittengemälde in vier Bildern”), to each of which he has
given a separate title, a method which enables him to indulge in his
trick of applying a pretty, inoffensive name to a tragic subject, as
he does in picture two of this series, which he calls “Behind Swedish
Curtains,” and which represents the interior of a jail. The curtains
to which the playwright refers are the iron bars of the prison.
The central character in “Musik,” Klara Huhnerwadel, is a neurotic
girl, whose mad love for her singing teacher has entangled her in the
meshes of the legal net drawn to catch Madame Fischer, a notorious
character in real life, who actively engaged the attention of the
German police authorities not long ago. At the instigation of her
lover, Josef Reissner, and with money supplied by Else Reissner,
Josef's wife, Klara flees to Antwerp, only to find existence
insupportable there, and to return to a life in jail which drives her
to the edge of insanity. Released from imprisonment, she continues
her relationship with her teacher until their association becomes
public scandal, and then takes refuge in the country, intending to
devote her life to her illegitimate child. The child dies, however,
and there descends upon Klara what Wedekind describes as “the curse
of the ridiculous.” In an outburst of frightful anguish she is filled
with “a nameless loathing of the horrible fate of being racked to
death by bursts of sneering laughter,” and raves in hysteria by the
bedside of her dead baby.
Upon this final picture Wedekind has expended his full power of
biting irony. Josef Reissner, the cause of Klara's misfortune, is
thanked by her mother for all he has done for her, while Franz
Lindekuh, a literary man, whose rôle in the play has been that of a
good Samaritan, is accused as the author of her disgrace. During
previous tribulations Reissner has assured Klara repeatedly that her
suffering would develop her artistic temperament and result in
bringing her fame as a singer. At the end, when Klara, after
undergoing imprisonment, exile, poverty, public disgrace and the loss
of her beloved child, finds herself bereft of even Reissner's regard,
she is led away in a stupor from her miserable attic. It is then, in
reply to a wish of the physician that she will suffer from no lasting
mental disturbance, that Lindekuh preludes the fall of the curtain by
the caustic remark: “She'll be able to sing a song.”
Here, truly, is a tragedy! There can be no doubt but what Wedekind
has handled it in a powerful fashion. He sounds the tragic note upon
the first rising of the curtain, a note which grows in intensity
until the auditor wonders if it is possible for it to reach
higher----and yet it swells.
“Frühlings Erwachen” is the best known of the Wedekind dramas and the
most original in its treatment. It has peculiarities, however, which
make it somewhat difficult to give as a stage performance. To see
what this German playwright can do on more conservative lines, and to
appreciate his mastership of the conventional technique of the stage,
one must turn to the dramas of modern life in which he handles such
subjects as socialism, woman's emancipation, naturalism and divorce;
frequently, it must be confessed, in a way which Americans refuse to
tolerate upon the stage, despite their fondness for the same sort of
information when supplied by the newspapers.
Selecting his characters from all classes of life, Wedekind brings to
their making the knowledge of life as the police reporter sees it
plus the science of a skilled psychologist. There is something
sardonic about his art. He does not appear to sympathize with any of
his characters, but to stand outside of life making note of the
foibles and failures of his fellow-creatures. His irony appears in
the most tragic places, and his dialogue, wrought with a cunning
which requires strict attention on the part of the auditor if its
subtleties would be grasped, serves Wedekind as an instrument for
dissecting souls which he wields quite regardless of the mess he may
make in the operating room.
None knows better how to show the peculiarities of a neurotic woman,
or to betray a man's weakness by a few short sentences. The
demonstration is direct and thorough, and we watch it fascinated, as
we might the work of a skilled vivisectionist. When the job is
finished we feel convinced that Wedekind's personages are real,
although many of them are not the kind we enjoy meeting in actual
life. We do meet them daily, nevertheless, tolerating them chiefly by
our own polite habit of ascribing imaginary virtues to those that
possess them not.
Take that curious comedy, “Der Marquis von Keith,” as an example of
Wedekind's skill as a psychologist. “Comedy” the author names it
himself, but he might just as well have called it a tragic farce, so
thoroughly has he mingled the laughable with the tragic. The
protagonist of this peculiar play (the underlying tone of which has
been likened musically to a Dies Irae written by Offenbach) is the
illegitimate son of a teacher of mathematics and a gypsy trull, an
adventurer who keeps on the shady side of the law, and who, despite
his practical view of life in general, is an idealist in several
particulars. His title of Marquis von Keith is merely a _nom de
guerre_, and his attempts to obtain a fortune involve methods which
the world acclaims as evidences of wonderful financial ability, or
stigmatizes as the practices of a sharper, according to their success
or failure. Resourceful, energetic, unhampered by vain regrets or
restrictions of conventional morals, wasting not a moment upon a
scheme which has proved unprofitable, von Keith is a forceful
personage who manages to pass in Munich as a wealthy American, even
when his pockets are empty and the sheriff is at the door. His own
view of life is embodied in his definition of sin as “the
mythological symbol for bad business,” and his accompanying
explanation that good business can be conducted only by a person
accepted by the existing order of society.
In other words, von Keith is a hypocrite for revenue only, but never
is deceived concerning his own personality.
The play deals with von Keith's scheme to build an amusement hall, to
be known as “The Fairy Palace.” He applies himself so sedulously that
his plans are on the eve of realization, when suddenly he finds
himself ousted from the management of his own enterprise by the very
men he has interested in it.
Now all this is comedy, of course, but Wedekind is not to be deprived
of his predelection for the minor key. He introduces the tragic tone
in this instance right in the final scene, when von Keith is
confronted by the dead body of his common-law wife, Molly Griefinger.
In some respects this episode resembles a travesty upon the final act
of Sudermann's “Sodoms Ende;” but it is characteristic of Wedekind
that he makes Molly kill herself because she fears von Keith's
success will estrange her from her husband, and that her suicide is
followed directly by the failure of von Keith's well-laid plans, just
as they seemed about to mature.
It is characteristic, also, that the crowd which denounces von Keith
as the cause of Molly's death, and which threatens to do him bodily
harm, is composed of tradesmen whose initial cause of discontent is
to be found in the promoter's failure to pay his bills.
Wedekind's certainty of touch is as much in evidence in his handling
of his minor characters as it is in the portrayal of von Keith. There
is Molly, whose little bourgeois soul fears the great world, shrinks
from her husband's acquaintances, and dreads to take its place among
the wealthy classes; Simba, the artist's model, who is astonished at
anybody pitying her as a victim of civilization when she can get
drunk on champagne; Casimir, the wealthy merchant; and the Bohemian
painter Saranieff, with his friend Zamrjaki, the composer. As an
antithesis to von Keith we are introduced to Ernst Scholz, a weakling
whose soul is torn by internal strife, until its owner is at peace
neither with himself nor the world. Scholz wastes his time seeking a
reason for his own existence and in longing to become a useful member
of society; von Keith scorns to bother his brain with such trifles,
boldly proclaiming the Nietzschean doctrine that the only way to be
useful to others is to help one's self as much as possible, and
asserting that he would rather gather cigar stumps in the café
gutters than live in slothful peace in the country. There is no doubt
about von Keith being a rogue, in the conventional acceptance of the
term, but his enthusiasm appeals to us and we feel for him in his
undoing at the end of the play.
In “Die Junge Welt” Wedekind shows us the laughable attempts of a
party of young girls to live a life of celibacy in pursuance of a
resolution taken in boarding school. It is an amusing comedy, and
contains, among other interesting personages, a literary man, who
nearly drives his wife to divorce by his habit of jotting down notes
of her emotions, even when he is kissing her.
An opportunity to comment upon the German _lese majesty_ is not
neglected by Wedekind in the romantic drama, “So ist das Leben,” a
dignified and carefully wrought work, partly in verse, which deals
with the tribulations of a deposed monarch in his own country. This
exiled king becomes tramp, tailor and strolling player, to end
eventually as court jester of the very man who has taken his place on
“Der Kammersänger,” three scenes from the life of a popular tenor, is
little more than a dramatic sketch. “Der Erdgeist” and “Die Büchse
der Pandora,” two plays which constitute an integral whole, deal with
a lady who embraces Mrs. Warren's profession. These, with “Der
Leibestrank” and “Oaha,” two farces, with traces of real psychology,
round out the total of Wedekind's dramatic works. In addition, he has
indulged in verse-making and written a number of short stories
somewhat in the manner of De Maupassant.
One may feel at times that Wedekind's art would gain by the exercise
of more restraint, but there is no denying it is a great relief from
An attempt to explain symbolism is usually a dangerous matter. If a
failure, it makes the one who essays the task ridiculous. If
successful, it cheapens the value of the symbolism; symbolism being a
kind of an overtone to verbal reasoning, to which it bears much the
same relationship as music does to poetry. In spite of this double
danger, the translator ventures to close this review with a guess at
the personality of the Masked Man who plays such an important part in
the final scene of “Frühlings Erwachen” and to whom the author has
dedicated the play. To the translator, then, this mysterious
personage is none other than Life, Life in its reality, not Life as
seen through the fogged glasses of Melchior's pedagogues or the
purblind eyes of the unfortunate mother who sends her daughter to an
FRANCIS J. ZIEGLER.
TO THE MASKED MAN
The Awakening of Spring.
_A Dwelling Room._
Why have you made my dress so long, Mother?
You are fourteen years old to-day.
Had I known you were going to make my dress so long, I would rather
not have been fourteen.
The dress is not too long, Wendla. What do you want? Can I help it
that my child is two inches taller every spring? As a grown-up maiden
you cannot go about in short dresses.
At any rate, my short dress becomes me better than this
nightgown.--Let me wear it again, Mother, only through this summer.
This penitential robe will fit me just as well whether I am fifteen
or fourteen. Let's put it aside until my next birthday, now I should
only tear the flounces.
I don't know what to say. I want to take special care of you just
now, child. Other girls are hardy and plump at your age. You are the
contrary.----Who knows what you will be when the others have
Who knows--possibly I shall not be at all.
Child, child, how do such thoughts come to you!
Don't, dear Mother, don't be sad.
My own darling!
They come to me at night when I can't sleep. I am not made sad by
them, and I believe that I sleep better after them. Is it sinful,
Mother, to have such thoughts?
Go hang the long dress up in the closet. Put on your short dress
again, in God's name!--I will put another depth of ruffles on it.
(_Hanging the dress in the closet._)
No, I would rather be twenty at once----!
If only you are not too cold!----The dress was long enough for you in
its time, but----
Now, when summer is coming?----Mother, when one is a child, one
doesn't catch diphtheria in one's knees! Who would be so cowardly. At
my age one doesn't freeze--least of all in the legs. Would it be any
better for me to be too warm, Mother? Give thanks to God if some day
your darling doesn't tear out the sleeves and come to you at twilight
without her shoes and stockings!--If I wore my long dress I should
dress like an elfin queen under it.--Don't scold, Mother! Nobody sees
it any more.
This is too tiresome for me. I won't do anything more with it.
Then we others can stop, too!----Have you the work, Melchior?
Keep right on playing!
Where are you going?
For a walk.
But it's growing dark!
Have you the work already?
Why shouldn't I go walking in the dark?
Central America!----Louis the Fifteenth!----Sixty verses of
Damn the work!
If only Latin composition didn't come to-morrow!
One can't think of anything without a task intervening.
I'm going home.
I, too, to work.
I, too, I too.
Sleep well! (_All withdraw save Moritz and Melchior._) I'd like to
know why we really are on earth!
I'd rather be a cab-horse than go to school!----Why do we go to
school?----We go to school so that somebody can examine us!----And
why do they examine us?----In order that we may fail. Seven must
fail, because the upper classroom will hold only sixty.----I feel so
queer since Christmas.----The devil take me, if it were not for Papa,
I'd pack my bundle and go to Altoona to-day!
Let's talk of something else----
(_They go for a walk._)
Do you see that black cat there with its tail sticking up?
Do you believe in omens?
I don't know exactly. They come down to us. They don't matter.
I believe that is the Charybdis on which one runs when one steers
clear of the Scylla of religious folly.----Let's sit down under this
beech tree. The cool wind blows over the mountains. Now I should like
to be a young dryad up there in the wood to cradle myself in the
topmost branches and be rocked the livelong night.
Unbutton your vest, Melchior.
Ha!----How clothes make one puff up!
God knows, it's growing so dark that one can't see one's hand before
one's eyes. Where are you?----Do you believe, Melchior, that the
feeling of shame in man is only a product of his education?
I was thinking over that for the first time the day before yesterday.
It seems to me deeply rooted in human nature. Only think, you must
appear entirely clothed before your best friend. You wouldn't do so
if he didn't do the same thing.----Therefore, it's more or less of a
I have often thought that if I have children, boys and girls, I will
let them occupy the same room; let them sleep together in the same
bed, if possible; let them help each other dress and undress night
and morning. In hot weather, the boys as well as the girls, should
wear nothing all day long but a short white woolen tunic with a
girdle.----It seems to me that if they grew up that way they would be
easier in mind than we are under the present regulations.
I believe so decidedly, Moritz!----The only question is, suppose the
girls have children, what then?
How could they have children?
In that respect I believe in instinct. I believe, for example, that
if one brought up a male and a female cat together, and kept both
separated from the outside world----that is, left them entirely to
their own devices----that, sooner or later, the she cat would become
pregnant, even if she, and the tom cat as well, had nobody to open
their eyes by example.
That might happen with animals----
I believe the same of human beings. I assure you, Moritz, if your
boys sleep in the same bed with the girls, and the first emotion of
manhood comes unexpectedly to them--I should like to wager with
You may be right--but after all----
And when your girls reached the same age it would be the same with
them! Not that the girls exactly--one can't judge that the same,
certainly--at any rate, it is supposable--and then their curiosity
must not be left out of account.
A question, by the way----
But you will answer?
My hand on it.----Now, Moritz?
Have you written your composition yet??
Speak right out from your heart!----Nobody sees or hears us here.
Of course, my children will have to work all day long in yard or
garden, or find their amusement in games which are combined with
physical exercise. They must ride, do gymnastics, climb, and, above
all things, must not sleep as soft as we do. We are weakened
frightfully.----I believe one would not dream if one slept harder.
From now until fall I shall sleep only in my hammock. I have shoved
my bed back of the stove. It is a folding one. Last winter I dreamed
once that I flogged our Lolo until he couldn't move a limb. That was
the most gruesome thing I ever dreamed.----Why do you look at me so
Have you experienced it yet?
How do you say it?
I also ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
---- ---- ---- ---- ----
I've known that for a long while!----Almost for a year.
I was startled as if by lightning.
Did you dream?
Only for a little while--of legs in light blue tights, that strode
over the teacher's desk--to be correct, I thought they wanted to go
over it. I only saw them for an instant.
George Zirschnitz dreamed of his mother.
Did he tell you that?
Out there on the gallow's road.
If you only knew what I have endured since that night!
Qualms of conscience?
Qualms of conscience??----The anguish of death!
I thought I was incurable. I believed I was suffering from an inward
hurt.----Finally I became calm enough to begin to jot down the
recollections of my life. Yes, yes, dear Melchior, the last three
weeks have been a Gethsemane for me.
I was more or less prepared for it when it came. I felt a little
ashamed of myself.----But that was all.
And yet you are a whole year younger than I am.
I wouldn't bother about that, Moritz. All my experience shows that
the appearance of this phantom belongs to no particular age. You know
that big Lämmermeier with the straw-colored hair and the hooked nose.
He is three years older than I am. Little Hans Rilow says Lämmermeier
dreams now only of tarts and apricot preserves.
But, I ask you, how can Hans Rilow know that?
He asked him.
He asked him?----I didn't dare ask anybody.
But you asked me.
God knows, yes!----Possibly Hans, too, has made his will.----Truly
they play a remarkable game with us. And we're expected to give
thanks for it. I don't remember to have had any longing for this kind
of excitement. Why didn't they let me sleep peacefully until all was
still again. My dear parents might have had a hundred better
children. I came here, I don't know how, and must be responsible
because I didn't stay away.----Haven't you often wondered, Melchior,
by what means we were brought into this whirl?
Don't you know that yet either, Moritz?
How should I know it? I see how the hens lay eggs, and hear that
Mamma had to carry me under her heart. But is that enough?----I
remember, too, when I was a five year old child, to have been
embarrassed when anyone turned up the décolleté queen of hearts. This
feeling has disappeared. At the same time, I can hardly talk with a
girl to-day without thinking of something indecent, and--I swear to
you, Melchior--I don't know what.
I will tell you everything. I have gotten it partly from books,
partly from illustrations, partly from observations of nature. You
will be surprised; it made me an atheist. I told it to George
Zirschnitz! George Zirschnitz wanted to tell it to Hans Rilow, but
Hans Rilow had learned it all from his governess when he was a child.
I have gone through Meyer's Little Encyclopedia from A to Z.
Words--nothing but words and words! Not a single plain explanation.
Oh, this feeling of shame!----What good to me is an encyclopedia that
won't answer me concerning the most important question in life?
Did you ever see two dogs running together about the streets?
No!----Don't tell me anything to-day, Melchior. I have Central
America and Louis the Fifteenth before me. And then the sixty verses
of Homer, the seven equations and the Latin composition.----I would
fail in all of them again to-morrow. To drudge successfully I must be
as stupid as an ox.
Come with me to my room. In three-quarters of an hour I will have the
Homer, the equations and two compositions. I will put one or two
harmless errors in yours, and the thing is done. Mamma will make
lemonade for us again, and we can chat comfortably about propagation.
I can't----I can't chat comfortably about propagation! If you want to
do me a favor, give me your information in writing. Write me out what
you know. Write it as briefly and clearly as possible, and put it
between my books to-morrow during recess. I will carry it home
without knowing that I have it. I will find it unexpectedly. I cannot
but help going over it with tired eyes----in case it is hard to
explain, you can use a marginal diagram or so.
You are like a girl.----Nevertheless, as you wish. It will be a very
interesting task for me.----One question, Moritz?
Did you ever see a girl?
All of her?
So have I!----Then we won't need any illustrations.
During the Schützenfest in Leilich's anatomical museum! If it had
leaked out I should have been hunted out of school.----Beautiful as
the light of day, and----oh, so true to nature!
I was at Frankfurt with Mamma last summer----Are you going already,
I must work.----Good-night.
'Till we meet again.
_Thea, Wendla and Martha come along the street arm in arm._
How the water gets into one's shoes!
How the wind blows against one's cheeks!
How one's heart thumps!
Let's go out there to the bridge. Ilse says the stream is full of
bushes and trees. The boys have built a raft. Melchi Gabor was almost
Oh, he can swim!
I should think so, child!
If he hadn't been able to swim he would have been drowned!
Your hair is coming down, Martha, your hair is coming down.
Pooh!----Let it come down! It bothers me day and night. I may not
wear short hair like you; I may not wear my hair down my back like
Wendla; I may not wear bangs, and I must always do my hair up at
home----all on account of my aunt!
I'll bring the scissors with me to-morrow to devotions. While you are
saying, “Blessed are they who do not stray,” I will clip it off.
For heaven's sake, Wendla! Papa would beat me black and blue, and
Mamma would lock me up in the coal hole for three nights.
What does he beat you with, Martha?
It often seems to me as if they would miss something if they didn't
have an ill-conditioned brat like me.
Are you ever allowed to put a blue ribbon through the top of your
A pink ribbon! Mamma thinks a pink ribbon goes well with my big dark
Blue suits me to a T!----Mamma pulled me out of bed by the hair. I
fell with my hands out so on the floor.----Mamma prayed night after
night with us----
In your place I should have run away long ago.
There you have it! The reason I am going away!----There you have
it!----They will soon see----oh, they will soon see! At least I shall
never be able to reproach my mother----
Can you imagine, Thea, what Mamma meant by it?
I can't----can you, Wendla?
I should simply have asked her.
I lay on the floor and shrieked and howled. Then Papa came in.
Rip----he tore off my chemise. Out of the door I went. There you have
it!----I only wanted to get out in the street that way----
But that is not so, Martha.
I froze. I was locked up. I had to sleep all night in a sack.
Never in my life could I sleep in a sack!
I only wish I could sleep once for you in your sack.
If only one weren't beaten!
But one would suffocate in it!
Your head is left outside. It's tied under your chin.
And then they beat you?
No. Only when there is special occasion.
What do they beat you with, Martha?
Oh, with anything that is handy.----Does your mother think it's
naughty to eat a piece of bread in bed?
I believe they enjoy it----even if they don't say so. If I ever have
children I will let them grow up like the weeds in our flower garden.
Nobody worries about them and they grow so high and thick----while
the roses in the beds grow poorer and poorer every summer.
If I have children I shall dress them all in pink. Pink hats, pink
dresses, pink shoes. Only the stockings----the stockings shall be
black as night! When I go for a walk they shall march in front of
me.----And you, Wendla?
How do you know that you will have any?
Why shouldn't we have any?
Well, Aunt Euphemia hasn't any.
You goose, that's because she isn't married.
Aunt Bauer was married three times and she didn't have a single one.
If you have any, Wendla, which would you rather have, boys or girls?
I, too, boys!
So would I. Better twenty boys than three girls.
Girls are tiresome.
If I weren't a girl already I certainly wouldn't want to be one.
That's a matter of taste, I believe, Martha. I rejoice every day that
I am a girl. Believe me, I wouldn't change places with a king's
son.----That's the reason why I only want boys!
But that's crazy, pure craziness, Wendla!
But it must be a thousand times more exciting to be loved by a man
than by a girl!
But you don't want to assert that Forest Inspector Pfälle loves
Melitta more than she does him.
That I do, Thea. Pfälle is proud. Pfälle is proud because he is a
forest inspector--for Pfälle has nothing.----Melitta is happy because
she gets ten thousand times more than she is.
Aren't you proud of yourself, Wendla?
That would be silly.
In your place I should be proud of my appearance.
Only look how she steps out----how free her glance is--how she holds
herself, Martha. Isn't that pride?
Why not? I am so happy to be a girl; if I weren't a girl I should
break down the next time----
(_Melchior passes and greets them._)
He has a wonderful head.
He makes me think of the young Alexander going to school to
Oh dear, Greek history!----I only know how Socrates lay in his barrel
when Alexander sold him the ass' shadow.
He stands third in his class.
Professor Knochenbruch says he can be first if he wants.
He has a beautiful brow, but his friend has a soulful look.
Moritz Stiefel?----He's a stupid!
I've always gotten along well with him.
He disgraces anybody who is with him. At Rilow's party he offered me
some bon-bons. Only think, Wendla, they were soft and warm. Isn't
that----? He said he had kept them too long in his trouser's pocket.
Only think, Melchi Gabor told me once that he didn't believe
anything----not in God, not in a hereafter----in anything more in
_A park in front of the grammar school. Melchior, Otto, George,
Robert, Hans Rilow and Lämmermeier._
Can any of you say where Moritz Stiefel is keeping himself?
It may go hard with him!----Oh, it may go hard with him!
He'll keep on until he gets caught dead to rights.
Lord knows, I wouldn't want to be in his skin at this moment!
What cheek! What insolence!
Wha----Wha----what do you know?
What do we know?----Now, I tell you----
I wish I hadn't said anything!
So do I----God knows I do!
If you don't at once----
The long and the short of it is, Moritz Stiefel has broken into the
Into the Board Room----?
Into the Board Room. Right after the Latin lesson.
He was the last. He hung back intentionally.
As I turned the corner of the corridor, I saw him open the door.
The devil take----
If only the devil doesn't take him.
Perhaps the Rector didn't take the key.
Or Moritz Stiefel carries a skeleton key.
That may be possible.
If he has luck, he'll only be kept in.
Besides getting a demerit mark in his report!
If this doesn't result in his being kicked out.
There he is!
White as a handkerchief.
(_Moritz comes in in great agitation._)
Moritz, Moritz, what have you done!
From good fortune----from happiness----from jubilation----
You were caught!
I am promoted!----Melchior, I am promoted! Oh, I don't care what
happens now!----I am promoted!----Who would have believed that I
should be promoted!----I don't realize it yet!----I read it twenty
times!----I couldn't believe it----Good Lord, it's so!----It's so; I
am promoted! (_Laughing._) I don't know----I feel so queer----the
ground turns around----Melchior, Melchior, can you realize what I've
I congratulate you, Moritz----Only be happy that you got away with
You don't know, Hans, you can't guess, what depends on it. For three
weeks I've slunk past that door as if it were a hellish abyss. To-day
I saw it was ajar. I believe that if some one had offered me a
million----nothing, oh nothing, could have held me.----I stood in the
middle of the room,--I opened the report book----ran over the
leaves----found----and during all that time----I shudder----
----During all that time?
During all that time the door behind me stood wide open. How I got
out----how I came down the steps, I don't know.
Is Ernest Röbel promoted, too?
Oh, certainly, Hans, certainly!----Ernest Röbel is promoted, too.
Then you can't have read correctly. Counting in the dunce's stool,
we, with you and Robert, make sixty-one, and the upper class-room
cannot accommodate more than sixty.
I read it right enough. Ernest Röbel is given as high a rating as I
am--both of us have conditions to work off.----During the first
quarter it will be seen which of us has to make room for the other.
Poor Röbel!----Heaven knows, I'm not afraid of myself any longer.
I've looked into it too deeply this time for that.
I bet five marks that you lose your place.
You haven't anything. I won't rob you.----Lord, but I'll grind from
to-day on!----I can say so now----whether you believe it or
not----It's all the same now----I----I know how true it is; if I
hadn't been promoted I would have shot myself.
I'd like to see you shoot yourself!
Box his ears.
(_Gives him a cuff._)
Come, Moritz, let's go to the forester's house!
Do you believe his nonsense?
What's that to you? Let them chatter, Moritz! Come on, let's go to
(_Professors Hungergurt and Knochenbruch pass by._)
It is inexplicable to me, my dear colleague, how the best of my
scholars can fail the very worst of all.
To me, also, professor.
_A sunny afternoon--Melchior and Wendla meet each other in the
Is it really you, Wendla?----What are you doing up here all
alone?----For three hours I've been going from one side of the wood
to the other without meeting a soul, and now you come upon me out of
the thickest part of it!
Yes, it's I.
If I didn't know you were Wendla Bergmann, I would take you for a
dryad, fallen out of your tree.
No, no, I am Wendla Bergmann.----How did you come here?
I followed my thoughts.
I'm hunting waldmeister. Mamma wants to make Maybowl. At first she
intended coming along herself, but at the last moment Aunt Bauer
dropped in, and she doesn't like to climb.----So I came by myself.
Have you found your waldmeister?
A whole basketful. Down there under the beach it grows as thick as
meadow clover. Just now I am looking for a way out. I seem to have
lost the path. Can you tell me what time it is?
Just a little after half-past four. When do they expect you?
I thought it was later. I lay dreaming for a long time on the moss by
the brook. The time went by so fast, I feared it was already evening.
If nobody is waiting for you, let us linger here a little longer.
Under the oak tree there is my favorite place. If one leans one's
head back against the trunk and looks up through the branches at the
sky, one becomes hypnotized. The ground is warm yet from the morning
sun.----For weeks I've been wanting to ask you something, Wendla.
But I must be home at five o'clock.
We'll go together, then. I'll take the basket and we'll beat our way
through the bushes, so that in ten minutes we'll be on the
bridge!----When one lies so, with one's head in one's hand, one has
the strangest thoughts.----
(_Both lie down under the oak._)
What do you want to ask me, Melchior?
I've heard, Wendla, that you visit poor people's houses. You take
them food and clothes and money also. Do you do that of your own free
will, or does your mother send you?
Mother sends me mostly. They are families of day laborers that have
too many children. Often the husband can't find work and then they
freeze and go hungry. We have a lot of things which were laid away
long ago in our closets and wardrobes and which are no longer
needed.----But how did you know it?
Do you go willingly or unwillingly, when your mother sends you?
Oh, I love to go!----How can you ask?
But the children are dirty, the women are sick, the houses are full
of filth, the men hate you because you don't work----
That's not true, Melchior. And if it were true, I'd go just the same!
Why just the same, Wendla?
I'd go just the same! It would make me all the happier to be able to
Then you go to see the poor because it makes you happy?
I go to them because they are poor.
But if it weren't a pleasure to you, you wouldn't go?
Can I help it that it makes me happy?
And because of it you expect to go to heaven! So it's true, then,
that which has given me no peace for a month past!--Can the covetous
man help it that it is no pleasure to him to go to see dirty sick
Oh, surely it would give you the greatest pleasure!
And, therefore, he must suffer everlasting death. I'll write a paper
on it and send it to Pastor Kahlbauch. He is the cause of it. Why did
he fool us with the joy of good works.--If he can't answer me I won't
go to Sunday-school any longer and won't let them confirm me.
Why don't you tell your trouble to your dear parents? Let yourself be
confirmed, it won't cost you your head. If it weren't for our horrid
white dresses and your long trousers one might be more spiritual.
There is no sacrifice! There is no self-denial! I see the good
rejoice in their hearts, I see the evil tremble and groan--I see you,
Wendla Bergmann, shake your locks and laugh while I am as melancholy
as an outlaw.--What did you dream, Wendla, when you lay in the grass
by the brook?
With your eyes open?
I dreamed I was a poor, poor beggar girl, who was turned out in the
street at five o'clock in the morning. I had to beg the whole long
day in storm and bad weather from rough, hard-hearted people. When I
came home at night, shivering from hunger and cold, and without as
much money as my father coveted, then I was beaten----beaten----
I know that, Wendla. You have the silly children's stories to thank
for that. Believe me, such brutal men exist no longer.
Oh yes, Melchior, you're mistaken. Martha Bessel is beaten night
after night, so that one sees the marks of it the next day. Oh, but
it must hurt! It makes one boiling hot when she tells it. I'm so
frightfully sorry for her that I often cry over it in my pillows at
night. For months I've been thinking how one can help her.----I'd
take her place for eight days with pleasure.
One should complain of her father at once. Then the child would be
taken away from him.
I, Melchior, have never been beaten in my life----not a single time.
I can hardly imagine what it means to be beaten. I have beaten myself
in order to see how one felt then in one's heart----It must be a
I don't believe a child is better for it.
Better for what?
For being beaten.
With this switch, for instance! Ha! but it's tough and thin.
That would draw blood!
Would you like to beat me with it once?
What's the matter with you, Wendla?
What might happen?
Oh, be quiet! I won't beat you.
Not if I allow you?
Not even if I ask you, Melchior?
Are you out of your senses?
I've never been beaten in my life!
If you can ask for such a thing----
I'll teach you to say please! (_He hits her._)
Oh, Lord, I don't notice it in the least!
I believe you----through all your skirts----
Then strike me on my legs!
Wendla! (_He strikes her harder._)
You're stroking me! You're stroking me!
Wait, witch, I'll flog Satan out of you!
(_He throws the switch aside and beats her with his fists so that
she breaks out with a frightful cry. He pays no attention to this,
but falls upon her as if he were crazy, while the tears stream
heavily down his cheeks. Presently he springs away, holds both
hands to his temples and rushes into the depths of the wood crying
out in anguish of soul._)
_Evening in Melchior's study. The window is open, a lamp burns on
the table.--Melchior and Moritz on the divan._
Now I'm quite gay again, only a little bit excited.----But during the
Greek lesson I slept like the besotted Polyphemus. I'm astonished
that the pronunciation of the ancient tongue doesn't give me the
earache.----To-day I was within a hair of being late----My first
thought on waking was of the verbs in μι----Himmel--Herrgott--Teufel--
Donnerwetter, during breakfast and all along the road I conjugated
until I saw green.----I must have popped off to sleep shortly after
three. My pen made a blot in the book. The lamp was smoking when
Mathilde woke me; the blackbirds in the elder bushes under the window
were chirping so happily----and I felt so inexpressibly melancholy. I
put on my collar and passed the brush through my hair.----One feels
it when one imposes upon nature.
May I roll you a cigarette?
Thanks, I don't smoke.----If it only keeps on this way! I will work
and work until my eyes fall out of my head.----Ernest Röbel has
failed three times since vacation; three times in Greek, twice with
Knochenbruch; the last time in the history of literature. I have been
first five times in this lamentable conflict, and from to-day it does
not bother me!----Röbel will not shoot himself. Röbel has no parents
who sacrifice everything for him. If he wants he can become a
soldier, a cowboy or a sailor. If I fail, my father will feel the
blow and Mamma will land in the madhouse. One can't live through a
thing like that!----Before the examination I begged God to give me
consumption that the cup might pass me by untouched. He passed me by,
though to-day His aureole shines in the distance, so that I dare not
lift my eyes by night or day.----Now that I have grasped the bar I
shall swing up on it. The natural consequence will be that I shall
break my neck if I fall.
Life is a worthless commonplace. It wouldn't have been a bad idea if
I had hanged myself in the cradle.----Why doesn't Mamma come with the
Your tea will do me good, Melchior!----I'm shivering. I feel so
strangely spiritualized. Touch me once, please. I see,--I hear,--I
feel, much more acutely----and yet everything seems like a
dream----oh, so harmonious.----How still the garden stretches out
there in the moonlight, so still, so deep, as if it extended to
eternity. From out the bushes step indefinable figures that slip away
in breathless officiousness through the clearings and then vanish in
the twilight. It seems to me as if a counsel were to be held under
the chestnut tree.----Shall we go down there, Melchior?
Let's wait until we have drunk our tea.
The leaves whisper so busily.----It's just as if I heard my dead
grandmother telling me the story of the “Queen Without a Head.” There
was once a wonderfully beautiful Queen, beautiful as the sun, more
beautiful than all the maidens in the country. Only, unfortunately,
she came into the world without a head. She could not eat, not drink,
not kiss. She could only communicate with her courtiers by using her
soft little hand. With her dainty feet she stamped declarations of
war and orders for executions. Then, one day, she was besieged by a
King, who, by chance, had two heads, which, year in and year out,
disputed with one another so violently that neither could get a word
in edgewise. The Court Conjurer-in-chief took off the smallest of
these heads and set it upon the Queen's body. And, behold, it became
her extraordinarily well! Therefore, the King and the Queen were
married, and the two heads disputed no longer, but kissed each other
upon the brow, the cheeks and the mouth, and lived thereafter through
long, long years of joy and peace.----Delectable nonsense! Since
vacation I can't get the headless Queen out of my mind. When I see a
pretty girl, I see her without a head----and then presently, I,
myself appear to be the headless Queen.----It is possible that
someone may be set over me yet.
(_Frau Gabor comes in with the steaming tea, which she sets before
Melchior and Moritz on the table._)
Here, children, here's a mouthful for you. Good-evening, Herr
Stiefel, how are you?
Thank you, Frau Gabor.----I'm watching the dance down there.
But you don't look very good----don't you feel well?
It's not worth mentioning. I went to bed somewhat too late last
Only think, he worked all through the night.
You shouldn't do such things, Herr Stiefel. You ought to take care of
yourself. Think of your health. Don't set your school above your
health. Take plenty of walks in the fresh air. At your age, that is
more important than a correct use of middle high German.
I will go walking. You are right. One can be industrious while one is
taking a walk. Why didn't I think of that myself!----The written work
I shall still have to do at home.
You can do your writing here; that will make it easier for both of
us.----You know, Mamma, that Max von Trenk has been down with brain
fever!----To-day at noon Hans Rilow came from von Trenk's deathbed to
announce to Rector Sonnenstich that von Trenk had just died in his
presence. “Indeed?” said Sonnenstich, “haven't you two hours from
last week to make up? Here is the beadle's report. See that the
matter is cleared up once for all! The whole class will attend the
burial.”----Hans was struck dumb.
What book is that you have, Melchior?
Have you read it yet?
Not to the end.
We're just at the Walpurgisnacht.
If I were you I should have waited for one or two years.
I know of no book, Mamma, in which I have found so much beauty. Why
shouldn't I read it?
Because you can't understand it.
You can't know that, Mamma. I feel very well that I am not yet able
to grasp the work in its entirety----
We always read together; that helps our understanding wonderfully.
You are old enough, Melchior, to be able to know what is good and
what is bad for you. Do what you think best for yourself. I should be
the first to acknowledge your right in this respect, because you have
never given me a reason to have to deny you anything. I only want to
warn you that even the best can do one harm when one isn't ripe
enough in years to receive it properly.----I would rather put my
trust in you than in conventional educational methods.----If you need
anything, children, you, Melchior, come up and call me. I shall be in
Your Mamma means the story of Gretchen.
Weren't we discussing it just a moment ago!
Faust himself cannot have deserted her in cold blood!
The masterpiece does not end with this infamous action!----Faust
might have promised the maiden marriage, he might have forsaken her
afterwards, but in my eyes he would have been not a hair less worthy
of punishment. Gretchen might have died of a broken heart for all I
care.----One sees how this attracts the eyes continually; one might
think that the whole world turned on sex!
To be frank with you, Melchior, I have almost the same feeling since
I read your explanation.----It fell at my feet during the first
vacation days. I was startled. I fastened the door and flew through
the flaming lines as a frightened owl flies through a burning
wood----I believe I read most of it with my eyes shut. Your
explanation brought up a host of dim recollections, which affected me
as a song of his childhood affects a man on his deathbed when heard
from the lips of another. I felt the most vehement pity over what you
wrote about maidens. I shall never lose that sensation. Believe me,
Melchior, to suffer a wrong is sweeter than to do a wrong. To be
overcome by such a sweet wrong and still be blameless seems to me the
fullness of earthly bliss.
I don't want my bliss as alms!
But why not?
I don't want anything for which I don't have to fight!
Is it enjoyable then, Melchior?----The maiden's enjoyment is as that
of the holy gods. The maiden controls herself, thanks to her
self-denial. She keeps herself free from every bitterness until the
last moment, in order that she may see the heavens open over her in
an instant. The maiden fears hell even at the moment that she
perceives a blooming paradise. Her feeling is as pure as a mountain
spring. The maiden holds a cup over which no earthly breath has blown
as yet; a nectar chalice, the contents of which is spilled when it
flames and flares.----The enjoyment that the man finds in that, I
think, is insipid and flat.
You can think what you like about it, but keep your thoughts to
yourself----I don't like to think about it.
_A Dwelling Room._
(_Enters by the center door. Her face is beaming. She is without a
hat, wears a mantilla on her head and has a basket on her arm._)
(_Appears in petticoats and corset in the doorway to the right._)
What's the matter, Mother?
You are up already, child? Now, that is nice of you!
You have been out already?
Get dressed quickly!----You must go down to Ina's at once. You must
take her this basket!
(_Dressing herself during the following conversation._)
You have been to Ina's?--How is Ina?--Is she ever going to get
Only think, Wendla, last night the stork paid her a visit and brought
her a little baby boy!
A little boy?----A little boy!----Oh, that's lovely!----That's the
cause of that tedious influenza!
A fine little boy!
I must see him, Mother. That makes me an aunt for the third
time----aunt to a little girl and two little boys!
And what little boys!----It always happens that way when one lives so
near the church roof!----To-morrow will be just two years since she
went up the steps in her mull gown.
Were you there when he brought him?
He had just flown away again.----Won't you put on a rose?
Why couldn't you have been a little earlier, Mother?
I almost believe he brought you something, too----a breastpin or
It's really a shame!
But, I tell you, he brought you a breastpin!
I have breastpins enough----
Then be happy, child. What do you want besides?
I would have liked so much to have known whether he flew through the
window or down the chimney.
You must ask Ina. Ha! You must ask Ina that, dear heart! Ina will
tell you that fast enough. Ina talked with him for a whole half hour.
I will ask Ina when I get there.
Now don't forget, sweet angel! I'm interested myself to know if he
came in through the window or by the chimney.
Or hadn't I better ask the chimney-sweep?----The chimney-sweep must
know best whether he flew down the chimney or not.
Not the chimney-sweep, child; not the chimney-sweep. What does the
chimney-sweep know about the stork! He'd tell you a lot of
foolishness he didn't believe himself----Wha----what are you staring
at down there in the street?
A man, Mother,----three times as big as an ox!----with feet like
(_Rushing to the window._)
(_At the same time._)
He holds a bedslat under his chin and fiddles “Die Wacht am Rhein” on
it----there, he's just turned the corner.----
You are, and always will be a foolish child!----To frighten your old
simple mother that way!----Go get your hat! I wonder when you will
understand things. I've given up hope of you.
So have I, Mother dear, so have I. It's a sad thing about my
understanding.----I have a sister who has been married for two and a
half years, I myself have been made an aunt for the third time, and I
haven't the least idea how it all comes about.----Don't be cross,
Mother dear, don't be cross! Whom in the world should I ask but you!
Please tell me, dear Mother! Tell me, dear Mother! I'm ashamed for
myself. Please, Mother, speak! Don't scold me for asking you about
it. Give me an answer----How does it happen?----How does it all come
about?----You cannot really deceive yourself that I, who am fourteen
years old, still believe in the stork.
Good. Lord, child, but you are peculiar!----What ideas you have!----I
really can't do that!
But why not, Mother?----Why not?----It can't be anything ugly if
everybody is delighted over it!
O----O God protect me!----I deserve----Go get dressed, child, go get
I'll go----And suppose your child went and asked the chimney-sweep?
But that would be madness!----Come here, child, come here, I'll tell
you! I'll tell you everything----O Almighty Goodness!----only not
to-day, Wendla!----To-morrow, the next day, next week----any time you
want, dear heart----
Tell me to-day, Mother; tell me now! Right away!----Now that I have
seen you so frightened I can never be peaceful until you do.
I can't do it, Wendla.
Oh, why can't you, Mother dear!----I will kneel here at your feet and
lay my head in your lap. You can cover my head with your apron and
talk and talk, as if you were entirely alone in the room. I won't
move, I won't cry, I will bear all patiently, no matter what may
Heaven knows, Wendla, that I am not to blame! Heaven knows
it!----Come here in God's name! I will tell you, child, how you came
into this world.----Listen to me, Wendla.----
(_Under the apron._)
But it's no use, child!----I can't justify it. I deserve to be put
into prison----to have you taken from me.
Take heart, Mother!
(_Trembling under the apron._)
O God! O God!
In order to have a child----do you understand me, Wendla?
Quick, Mother, I can't stand it much longer.
In order to have a child----one must love--the man--to whom one is
married--love him, I tell you--as one can only love a man! One must
love him so much with one's whole heart, so--so that one can't
describe it! One must love him, Wendla, as you at your age are still
unable to love----Now you know it!
Now you know what an ordeal awaits you!
And that is all?
As true as God helps me!----Take your basket now and go to Ina. You
will get chocolate and cakes there.----Come, let's look you over, the
laced shoes, the silk gloves, the sailor blouse, the rose in your
hair--your dress is really becoming much too short for you, Wendla!
Did you get meat for lunch, Mother?
The Good God protect and bless you----I will find an opportunity to
add a handbreadth of flounces to the bottom.
(_With a light in his hand, fastens the door behind him and opens
“Have you prayed to-night, Desdemona?” (_He takes a reproduction of
the Venus of Palma Vecchio from his bosom._)----Thou wilt not appear
to me after the Our Father, darling,----as in that moment of
anticipated bliss when I saw thee contemplatively expectant of
someone's coming, lying in Jonathan Schlesinger's shop window----just
as enticing as thou art now, with these supple limbs, these softly
arched hips, these plump, youthful breasts.----Oh how intoxicated
with joy the great master must have been when his glance strayed over
the fourteen-year-old original stretched out upon the divan!
Wilt thou not visit me for awhile in my dreams? I will receive thee
with widely open arms and will kiss thee until thou art breathless.
Thou drawest me onward as the enchanted princess in her deserted
castle. Portals and doors open themselves as if by an unseen hand,
while the fountain in the park below begins to splash joyously----
“It is the cause!----It is the cause!” The frightful beating in my
breast shows thee that I do not murder thee from frivolous emotion.
The thought of my lonely nights is strangling me. I swear to thee,
child, on my soul, that it is not satiety which rules me. Who could
ever boast of being satiated of thee!
But thou suckest the marrow from my bones, thou bendest my back, thou
robbest my youthful eyes of their last spark of brilliancy.----Thou
art so arrogant toward me in thy inhuman modesty, so galling with thy
immovable limbs!----Thou or I! And I have won the victory.
Suppose I count them----all those who sleep, with whom I have fought
the same battle here----: Psyche by Thumann--another bequest from the
spindle-shanked Mademoiselle Angelique, that rattlesnake in the
paradise of my childhood; Io by Corregio; Galathea by Lossow; then a
Cupid by Bouguereau; Ada by J. van Beers--that Ada whom I had to
abduct from a secret drawer in Papa's secretary in order to
incorporate in my harem; a trembling, modest Leda by Makart, whom I
found by chance among my brother's college books----seven, thou
blooming candidate for death, have preceded thee upon this path to
Tartarus. Let that be a consolation unto thee, and seek not to
increase my torments at this enormity by that fleeting look.
Thou diest not for thy sins, thou diest on account of mine!----As
protection against myself I go to my seventh wife-murder with a
bleeding heart. There is something tragic in the rôle of Bluebeard. I
believe the combined sufferings of his murdered wives did not equal
the torments he underwent each time he strangled one of them.
But my thoughts will become more peaceful, my body will strengthen
itself, when thou, thou little devil, residest no longer in the red
satin padding of my jewel case. In place of thee, I will indulge in
wanton joyousness with Bodenhausen's Lurlei or Linger's Forsaken One,
or Defregger's Loni--so I should be all the quicker! But a quarter of
a year more, perhaps thy unveiled charms, sweet soul, would begin to
consume my poor head as the sun does a pat of butter. It is high time
to declare the divorce from bed and board.
Brrr! I feel a Heliogablus within me? Moritura me salutat! Maiden,
maiden, why dost thou press thy knees together?----Why now of all
times?----In face of the inscrutable eternity?----A movement and I
will spare thy life!----A womanly emotion, a sign of passion, of
sympathy, maiden!----I will frame thee in gold, and hang thee over my
bed! Doest thou not guess that only thy chastity begets my
debauchery?----Woe, woe, unto the inhuman ones!----
One always perceives that they received an exemplary education----It
is just so with me.
“Have you prayed to-night, Desdemona?”
My heart contracts,----madness!----St. Agnes also died for her
reserve and was not half as naked as thou!----Another kiss upon thy
blooming body----upon thy childish swelling breast--upon thy sweetly
rounded--thy cruel knees----
“It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul, Let me not name it to
you, you chaste stars! It is the cause!”----
(_The picture falls into the depths, he shuts the lid._)
_A haymow. Melchior lies on his back in the fresh hay. Wendla comes
up the ladder._
Here's where you've hid yourself?----They're all hunting for you. The
wagon is outside again. You must help. There's a storm coming up.
Go away from me! Go away from me!
What's the matter with you?----Why are you hiding your face?
Out! out! I'll throw you down on the floor below.
Now for certain I'm not going.--(_Kneels down by him._) Why won't you
come out with me into the meadow, Melchior?----Here it is hot and
dark. Suppose we do get wet to the skin, what difference will that
make to us!
The hay smells so fine.----The sky outside must be as black as a
pall----I only see the brilliant poppy on your breast----and I hear
your heart beating----
Don't kiss me, Melchior!----Don't kiss me!
Your heart----I hear beating----
People love----when they kiss----Don't, don't!
Oh, believe me, there's no such thing as love! Everything is
selfishness, everything is egotism!----I love you as little as you
Oh, Melchior!----Don't, don't----
_Dear Herr Stiefel_:--After twenty-four hours of consideration and
reconsideration of all you have written me, I take up my pen with a
heavy heart. I cannot furnish you with the necessary amount for the
voyage to America--I give you my word of honor. In the first place, I
have not that much to my credit, and in the second place, if I had,
it would be the greatest sin imaginable for me to put into your hands
the means of accomplishing such an ill-considered measure. You will
be doing me a bitter wrong, Herr Stiefel, if you see a sign of lack
of love in my refusal. On the contrary, it would be the greatest
neglect of my duty as your motherly friend were I to allow myself to
be affected by your temporary lack of determination, so that I also
lost my head and blindly followed my first fleeting impulse. I am
very ready--in case you desire it--to write to your parents. I should
seek to convince your parents that you have done what you could
during this quarter, that you have exhausted your strength, that a
rigorous judgment of your case would not only be inadvisable, but
might be in the greatest degree prejudicial to your mental and bodily
That you imply a threat to take your own life in case flight is
impossible for you, to speak plainly, has somewhat surprised me. No
matter how undeserving is a misfortune, Herr Stiefel, one should
never choose improper means to escape it. The way in which you, to
whom I have always done only good, want to make me responsible for a
possible frightful action on your part, has something about it which,
in the eyes of an evil-thinking person, might be misconstrued very
easily. I must confess that this outbreak of yours--you who know so
well what one owes to oneself--is the last thing for which I was
prepared. However, I cherish the strong conviction that you are
laboring yet too much under the shock of your first fright to be able
to understand completely your action.
And, therefore, I hope with confidence that these words of mine will
find you already in better spirits. Take up the matter as it stands.
In my opinion it is unwise to judge a young man by his school record.
We have too many examples of bad students becoming distinguished men,
and, on the other hand, of brilliant students not being at all
remarkable in life. At any rate, I can assure you that your
misfortune, as far as it lies with me, shall make no difference in
your association with Melchior. On the contrary, it will afford me
the greatest pleasure to see my son going with a young man who, let
the world judge him as it will, is able to win my fullest sympathy.
And, therefore, hold your head high, Herr Stiefel!----Such a crisis
as this comes to all of us and will soon be surmounted. If all of us
had recourse to dagger or poison in such cases, there would soon be
no men left in the world. Let me hear from you right soon again, and
accept the heartfelt greetings of your unchanged
_Bergmann's garden in the morning sunlight._
Why have you slipped out of the room?----To hunt violets!----Because
Mother seems to laugh at me.----Why can't you bring your lips
together any more?----I don't know.----Indeed I don't know, I can't
find words----The path is like a velvet carpet, no pebbles, no
thorns.----My feet don't touch the ground.----Oh, how I slept last
Here they are.----I become as grave as a nun at communion.----Sweet
violets!----Peace, little mother, I will put on my long dress.----Oh
God, if somebody would come upon whose neck I could fall and tell!
_Evening twilight. Light clouds in the sky. The path straggles
through low bushes and coarse grass. The flow of the stream is
heard in the distance._
Better and better.----I am not fit. Another may be able to climb to
the top. I pull the door to behind me and step into the open.----I
don't care enough about it to let myself be turned back.
I haven't succeeded in forcing my way. How shall I force my way
now!----I have no contract with God. Let them make out of the thing
what they will. I have been forced.----I do not hold my parents
answerable. At the same time, the worst must fall upon them. They
were old enough to know what they were doing. I was a weakling when I
came into the world----or else I would have been wise enough to
become another being. Why should I be forced to pay for the fact that
the others were here already!
I must have fallen on my head----If anybody makes me a present of a
mad dog I'll give him back a mad dog. And if he won't take back his
mad dog, then I am human and----
I must have fallen on my head!
Man is born by chance and should not, after mature
consideration----It is to shoot oneself dead!
The weather at least has shown itself considerate. The whole day it
looked like rain and yet it has held off.----A rare peace rules in
nature. Nowhere anything dazzling, exciting. Heaven and earth are
like a transparent fabric. And everything seems so happy. The
landscape is as sweet as the melody of a lullaby.----“Sleep, little
prince, sleep on,” as Fräulein Snandulia sang. It's a shame she holds
her elbows so awkwardly!----I danced for the last time at the
Cäcilienfest. Snandulia only dances with good matches.----Her silk
dress was cut low in front and in the back. In the back, down to her
girdle and in the front down----unconscionably low.----She couldn't
have worn a chemise.------That might be something able to affect me
yet.----More than half curiosity.----It must be a wonderful
sensation----a feeling as if one were being carried through the
rapids----I should never tell anybody that I was experiencing
something untried before----I would act as if I had done it
all.--There is something shameful in growing up to be a man without
having learned the chief function of masculinity.----You come from
Egypt, honorable sir, and have not seen the pyramids?!
I will not cry again to-day. I will not think of my burial
again.----Melchior will lay a wreath on my coffin. Pastor Kahlbauch
will console my parents. Rector Sonnenstich will cite examples from
history.----It is possible that I shall not have a tombstone.
I had wanted a snow-white marble urn on a pedestal of black
syenite.----Thank God, I shall not miss them. Monuments are for the
living, not for the dead.
I should need a whole year to say farewell to everything in my
thoughts. I will not cry again. I am so happy to be able to look back
without bitterness. How many beautiful evenings I have passed with
Melchior!----under the osiers; at the forester's house; on the
highway where the five lindens stand; on the Schlossberg, among the
restful ruins of the Runenburg.----When the hour comes, I will think
with all my might of whipped cream. Whipped cream doesn't stay firm.
It falls and leaves a pleasant after-taste.----I had thought men were
infinitely worse. I haven't found one who didn't want to do his best.
Many have suffered with me on my own account.
I wander to the altar like the ancient Etrurian youth whose dying
rattle bought his brothers' prosperity for the coming year.----I
experience bit by bit the mysterious awe of liberation. I sob with
sorrow over my lot.----Life has turned its cold shoulder to me. I see
earnest, friendly glances luring me there in the distance, the
headless queen, the headless queen--compassion awaiting me with open
arms----Your commands concern minors; I carry my free ticket in
myself. If the shell sinks, the butterfly flits from it; the delusion
no longer holds.----You should drive no mad bargain with the swindle!
The mists close in; life is bitter on the tongue.
(_In torn clothing, a bright cloth about her head, grabs him by the
shoulder from behind._)
What have you lost?
What are you hunting here?
Why did you frighten me so?
What are you hunting?----What have you lost?
Why did you frighten me so fearfully?
I'm coming from town.----I'm going home.
I don't know what I've lost.
Then seeking won't help you.
I haven't been home for four days.
Restless as a cat!
Because I have on my dancing slippers----Mother will make
eyes!----Come to our house with me!
Where have you been strolling again?
With the Priapia!
With Nohl, with Fehrendorf, with Padinsky, with Lenz, Rank,
Spühler--with all of them possible! Kling, kling----things were
Do they paint you?
Fehrendorf painted me as a pillar saint. I am standing on a
Corinthian capital. Fehrendorf, I tell you, is a gibbering idiot. The
last time, I trod on one of his tubes. He wiped his brush on my hair.
I fetched him a box on the ear. He threw his palette at my head. I
upset the easel. He chased me all about the studio, over divans,
tables and chairs, with his mahlstick. Behind the stove stood a
sketch;----Be good or I'll tear it! He swore amnesty, and--and then
kissed me promptly and frightfully, frightfully, I tell you.
Where do you spend the night when you stop in town?
Yesterday we were at Nohl's.----The day before with
Bojokewitsch--Sunday with Oikonomopulos. We had champagne at
Padinsky's. Valabregez had sold his “Woman Dead of the Pest.” Adolar
drank out of the ash tray. Lenz sang the “Child's Murderer,” and
Adolar pounded the guitar out of shape. I was so drunk they had to
put me to bed.----Do you go to school yet, Moritz?
No, no,----I take my leave of it this quarter.
You are right. Ah, how time passes when one earns money!----Do you
remember how we used to play robbers?----Wendla Bergmann and you and
I and the others, when you used to come out in the evening and drink
warm goat's milk at our house?----What is Wendla doing? I haven't
seen her since the flood----What is Melchi Gabor doing?----Does he
seem as deep thinking as ever?----We used to stand opposite each
other during singing.
Wendla came to see us a while ago and brought Mother some presents. I
sat that day for Isidor Landauer. He needed me for the Holy Mary, the
Mother of God, with the Christ Child. He is a ninny and disagreeable.
Hu, like a weathercock!----Have you a katzenjammer?
From last night!----We soaked like hippopotami. I staggered home at
One need only to look at you.----Were there any girls there?
Arabella, the beer nymph, an Andalusian. The landlord let all of us
spend the whole night alone with her.
One only need look at you, Moritz!----I don't know what a
katzenjammer's like. During the last carnival I went three days and
three nights without going to bed or taking my clothes off. From the
ball to the café, noon at Bellavista; evenings, Tingle-Tangle; night,
to the ball. Lena was there, and the fat Viola.----The third night
Heinrich found me.
Had he been looking for you?
He tripped over my arm. I lay senseless in the snow in the
street.----That's how I went with him. For fourteen days I didn't
leave his lodgings----a dreadful time! In the morning I had to throw
on his Persian nightgown and in the evening go about the room in
the black costume of a page; white lace ruffles at my neck, my
knees and my wrists. Every day he photographed me in some new
arrangement----once on the sofa as Ariadne, once as Leda, once as
Ganymede, once on all fours as a feminine Nebuchadnezzar. Then he
longed for murder, for shooting, suicide and coal gas. Early in the
morning he brought a pistol into bed, loaded it full of shot and put
it against my breast! A twitch and I'll pull!----Oh, he would have
fired, Moritz, he would have fired!----Then he put the thing
in his mouth like a blow-pipe.----That awoke the feeling of
self-preservation. And then----brrr!----the shot might have gone
through my spine.
Is Heinrich living yet?
How do I know!----Over the bed was a large mirror set into the
ceiling. The room seemed as high as a tower and as bright as an opera
house. One saw one's self hanging down bodily from heaven. I had
frightful dreams at night----O God, O God, if it were only
day!----Good-night, Ilse, when you are asleep you will be pretty to
Is this Heinrich living yet?
Please God, no!----One day, when he went for absinthe, I put on the
mantle and ran out into the street. The carnival was over; the police
arrested me; what was I doing in man's clothes?----They took me to
the Central Station. Nohl, Fehrendorf, Padinsky, Spühler,
Oikonomopulos, the whole Priapia came there and bailed me out. They
transported me in a cab to Adolar's studio. Since then I've been true
to the herd. Fehrendorf is an ape, Nohl is a pig, Bojokewitsch an
owl, Loison a hyena, Oikonomopulos a camel----therefore I love one
and all of them the same and wouldn't attach myself to anyone else,
even if the world were full of archangels and millionaires!
I must go back, Ilse.
Come as far as our house with me!
What for?----What for?----
To drink warm goat's milk! I will singe your hair and hang a little
bell around your neck.----Then we have another kid with which you can
I must go back. I have yet the Sassanides, the Sermon on the Mount
and the parallelepipedon on my thoughts.----Good-night, Ilse!
Sleep well!----Do you ever go to the wigwam where Melchi Gabor buried
my tomahawk?----Brrr! until you are married I'll lie in the straw.
It might have cost only a word.----(_He calls_)----Ilse?----Ilse!----
Thank God she doesn't hear me any more.----I am not in the
humor.----One needs a clear head and a happy heart for it.----What a
lost opportunity!----I would have said that I had many crystal
mirrors over my bed----that I had trained an unbroken filly----that
I had her proudly march in front of me on the carpet in long black
silk stockings and black patent leather shoes, long black gloves,
black velvet about her neck----had strangled her in a moment of
madness with my cushions. I would laugh when the talk turned
on passion----I would cry out!----Cry out!----Cry out! It is
you, Ilse!----Priapia!----Loss of memory!----That takes my
strength!----This child of fortune, this sunny child----this joyous
maiden on my dolorous path!----O!----O!------ ---- ---- ---- ----
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
(_In the bushes by the bank._)
Have I found it again unwillingly--the seat of turf. The mulleins
seem to have grown since yesterday. The outlook between the willows
is still the same----The water runs as heavy as melted lead. I
mustn't forget. (_He takes Frau Gabor's letter from his pocket and
burns it._)----How the sparks fly--here and there, downward and
Before I struck a light one could see the grass and a streak on the
horizon.----Now it is dark. Now I shall never return home again.
_The Board Room--On the walls pictures of Pestalozzi and Jean
_Professors Affenschmalz, Knüppeldick, Hungergurt, Knochenbruch,
Zungenschlag and Fliegentod are seated around a green-covered
table, over which are burning several gas jets. At the upper end,
on a raised seat, is Rector Sonnenstich. Beadle Habebald squats
near the door._
Has any gentleman something further to remark?----Gentlemen! We
cannot help moving the expulsion of our guilty pupil before the
National Board of Education; there are the strongest reasons why we
cannot: We cannot, because we must expiate the misfortune which has
fallen upon us already; we cannot, because of our need to protect
ourselves from similar blows in the future; we cannot, because we
must chastise our guilty pupil for the demoralizing influence he
exerted upon his classmates; we cannot, above all, because we must
hinder him from exerting the same influence upon his remaining
classmates. We cannot ignore the charge--and this, gentlemen, is
possibly the weightiest of all----on any pretext concerning a ruined
career, because it is our duty to protect ourselves from an epidemic
of suicide similar to that which has broken out recently in various
grammar schools, and which until to-day has mocked all attempts of
the teachers to shackle it by any means known to advanced
education----Has any gentleman something further to remark?
I can rid myself of the conception no longer that it is time at last
to open a window here.
Th- th- there is an a- a- at- atmosphere here li- li- like th- th-
that of the cata- catacombs, like that in the document room of the
former Cha-Cha-Chamber of Justice at Wetzlar.
At your service, Herr Rector.
Open a window. Thank God there's fresh air enough outside.----Has any
other gentleman anything to say?
If my associate wants to have a window opened, I haven't the least
objection to it. Only I should like to ask that the window opened is
not the one directly behind my back!
At your service, Herr Rector.
Open the other window!----Has any other gentleman anything to remark?
Without wishing to increase the controversy, I should like to recall
the important fact that the other window has been walled up since
At your service, Herr Rector.
Leave the other window shut!----I find it necessary, gentlemen, to
put this matter to a vote. I request those who are in favor of having
the only window which can enter into this discussion opened to rise
from their seats. (_He counts._) One, two, three----one, two,
At your service, Herr Rector.
Leave that window shut likewise! I, for my part, am of the opinion
that the air here leaves nothing to be desired!----Has any gentleman
anything further to remark?----Let us suppose that we omitted to move
the expulsion of our guilty pupil before the National Board of
Education, then the National Board of Education would hold us
responsible for the misfortune which has overwhelmed us. Of the
various grammar schools visited by the epidemic of self-murder, those
in which the devastation of self-murder has reached 25 per cent. have
been closed by the National Board of Education. It is our duty, as
the guardians and protectors of our institute, to protect our
institute from this staggering blow. It grieves us deeply, gentlemen,
that we are not in a position to consider the other qualifications of
our guilt-laden pupil as mitigating circumstances. An indulgent
treatment, which would allow our guilty pupil to be vindicated, would
not in any conceivable way imaginable vindicate the present imperiled
existence of our institute. We see ourselves under the necessity of
judging the guilt-laden that we may not be judged guilty
At your service, Herr Rector!
Bring him up! (_Exit Habebald._)
If the pre-present atmosphere leaves little or nothing to desire, I
should like to suggest that the other window be walled up during the
summer va- va- va- vacation.
If our esteemed colleague, Zungenschlag, does not find our room
ventilated sufficiently, I should like to suggest that our esteemed
colleague, Zungenschlag, have a ventilator set into his forehead.
I do- do- don't have to stand that!----I- I- I- I- do- do- don't have
to st- st- st- stand rudeness!----I have my fi- fi- five senses!
I must ask our esteemed colleagues, Fliegentod and Zungenschlag, to
preserve decorum. It seems to me that our guilt-laden pupil is
already on the stairs.
(_Habebald opens the door, whereupon Melchior, pale but collected,
appears before the meeting._)
Come nearer to the table!----After Herr Stiefel became aware of the
profligate deed of his son, the distracted father searched the
remaining effects of his son Moritz, hoping if possible, to find the
cause of the abominable deed, and discovered among them, in an
unexpected place, a manuscript, which, while it did not make us
understand the abominable deed, threw an unfortunate and sufficient
light upon the moral disorder of the criminal. This manuscript, in
the form of a dialogue entitled “The Nuptial Sleep,” illustrated with
life-size pictures full of shameless obscenity, has twenty pages of
long explanations that seek to satisfy every claim a profligate
imagination can make upon a lewd book.----
You have to keep quiet!----After Herr Stiefel had questioningly
handed us this manuscript and we had promised the distracted father
to discover the author at any price, we compared the handwriting
before us with the collected handwriting of the fellow-students of
the deceased profligate, and concluded, in the unanimous judgment of
the teaching staff, as well as with the full coincidence of a valued
colleague, the master of calligraphy, that the resemblance to
You have to keep quiet!----In spite of this likeness, recognized as
crushing evidence by incontrovertible authority, we believe that we
should allow ourselves to go further and to take the widest latitude
in examining the guilty one at first hand, in order to make him
answerable to this charge of an offense against morals, and to
discover its relationship to the resultant suicide.----
You have to answer the exact questions which I shall put to you, one
after the other, with a plain and modest “yes” or “no.”----Habebald!
At your service, Herr Rector!
The minutes!----I request our writing master, Herr Fliegentod, from
now on to take down the proceedings as nearly verbatim as
possible.----(_to Melchior._) Do you know this writing?
Do you know whose writing it is?
Is the writing in this manuscript yours?
Are you the author of this obscene manuscript?
Yes----I request you, sir, to show me anything obscene in it.
You have to answer with a modest “yes” or “no” the exact questions
which I put to you!
I have written neither more nor less than what are well-known facts
to all of you.
You shameless boy!
I request you to show me an offense against morals in this
Are you counting on a desire on my part to be a clown for
You have as little respect for the dignity of your assembled teachers
as you have a proper appreciation of mankind's innate sense of shame
which belongs to a moral world!----Habebald!
At your service, Herr Rector!
It is past the time for the three hours' exercise in agglutive
I will request our secretary, Herr Fliegentod, to close the minutes.
You have to keep still!!----Habebald!
At your service, Herr Rector!
Take him down!
_A graveyard in the pouring rain----Pastor Kahlbauch stands beside
an open grave with a raised umbrella in his hand. To his right are
Renter Stiefel, his friend Ziegenmelker and Uncle Probst. To the
left Rector Sonnenstich with Professor Knochenbruch, The grammar
school students complete the circle. Martha and Ilse stand somewhat
apart upon a fallen monument._
For, he who rejects the grace with which the Everlasting Father has
blessed those born in sin, he shall die a spiritual death!----He,
however, who in willful carnal abnegation of God's proper honor,
lives for and serves evil, shall die the death of the body!----Who,
however, wickedly throws away from him the cross which the All
Merciful has laid upon him for his sins, verily, verily, I say unto
you, he shall die the everlasting death! (_He throws a shovelful of
earth into the grave._)----Let us, however, praise the All Gracious
Lord and thank Him for His inscrutable grace in order that we may
travel the thorny path more and more surely. For as truly as this one
died a triple death, as truly will the Lord God conduct the righteous
unto happiness and everlasting life.
(_His voice stopped with tears, throws a shovelful of earth into
The boy was nothing to me!----The boy was nothing to me!----The boy
was a burden from his birth!
(_Throws a shovelful of earth into the grave._)
Suicide being the greatest conceivable fault against the moral order
of the world, is the greatest evidence of the moral order of the
world. The suicide himself spares the world the need of pronouncing
judgment of condemnation against himself, and confirms the existence
of the moral order of the world.
(_Throws a shovelful of earth into the grave._)
Wasted--soiled--debauched--tattered and squandered!
(_Throws a shovelful of earth into the grave._)
I would not have believed my own mother had she told me that a child
could act so basely towards its own parents.
(_Throws a shovelful of earth into the grave._)
To treat a father so, who for twenty years, from late to early, had
no other thought than the welfare of his child!
(_Shaking Renter Stiefel's hand._)
We know that those who love God serve all things best (1 Corinthians
12:15).----Think of the bereaved mother and strive to console her for
her loss by doubled love.
(_Shaking Renter Stiefel's hand._)
Indeed, we could not possibly have promoted him.
(_Shaking Renter Stiefel's hand._)
And if we had promoted him, next spring he would have certainly
failed to pass.
(_Shaking Renter Stiefel's hand._)
It is your duty now to think of yourself first of all. You are the
father of a family----
(_Shaking Renter Stiefel's hand._)
Trust yourself to my guidance!----This devilish weather shakes one's
guts!----The man who doesn't prevent it with a grog will ruin his
(_Blowing his nose._)
The boy was nothing to me----the boy was nothing to me!
(_Renter Stiefel leaves, accompanied by Pastor Kahlbauch, Rector
Sonnenstich, Professor Knockenbruch, Uncle Probst and Friend
Ziegenmelker.----The rain ceases._)
(_Throws a shovelful of earth into the grave._)
Rest in peace, you honest fellow!----Greet my eternal brides for me,
those sacrificed remembrances, and commend me respectfully to the
grace of God----you poor clown----They will put a scarecrow on top of
your grave because of your angelic simplicity.
Did they find the pistol?
There's no use looking for the pistol!
Did you see him, Robert?
It's a damned infernal swindle!----Who did see him?----Who did?
He was hidden!----They threw a covering over him.
Was his tongue hanging out?
His eyes----That's why they threw the cloth over him.
Do you know for certain that he hanged himself?
They say he has no head left.
I have the clue in my hands. I have never seen a man who hanged
himself that they haven't thrown a cloth over.
He couldn't have taken his leave in a vulgarer way!
The devil! Hanging is pretty enough!
He owes me five marks. We had a bet. He swore he would keep his
You are to blame for his lying there. You called him a boaster.
Nonsense! I, too, must grind away all night. If he had learned the
history of Greek literature he would not have had to hang himself!
Have you your composition, Otto?
First comes the introduction.
I don't know at all what to write.
Weren't you there when Affenschmalz gave us the theme?
I'll fake up something out of Democritus.
I will see if there is anything left to be found in Meyer's Little
Have you your Virgil for to-morrow?----
(_The schoolboys leave----Martha and Ilse approach the grave._)
Quick, quick!----Here are the grave-diggers coming!
Hadn't we better wait, Ilse?
What for?----We'll bring fresh ones. Always fresh ones. There are
You're right, Ilse!----(_She throws a wreath of ivy into the grave,
Ilse drops her apron and allows a shower of fresh anemones to rain
down on the coffin._)
I'll dig up our roses. I'll be beaten for it!----They will be of some
I'll water them as often as I pass here. I'll fetch violets from the
brook and bring some iris from our house.
It will be beautiful!----beautiful!
I was just across the brook on that side when I heard the shot.
And I know the reason, too, Martha.
Did he tell you anything?
Parallelepipedon! But don't tell anybody.
My hand on it.
Here is the pistol.
That's the reason they didn't find it!
I took it right out of his hand when I came along in the morning.
Give it to me, Ilse!----Please give it to me!
No, I'm going to keep it for a souvenir.
Is it true, Ilse, that he lay there without a head?
He must have loaded it with water!----The mulleins were spattered all
over with blood. His brains were scattered about the pasture.
_Herr and Frau Gabor._
They needed a scapegoat. They did not dare meet the charge that was
made everywhere against themselves. And now that my child has had the
misfortune to run his head into the noose at the right moment, shall
I, his own mother, help to end the work of his executioners?----God
keep me from it!
For fourteen years I have looked on at your spirited educational
methods in silence. They were contrary to my ideas. I had always
lived in the conviction that a child was not a plaything; a child
should have a claim upon our most earnest efforts. But, I said to
myself, if the spirit and the grace of the one parent are able to
compensate for the serious maxims of the other, they may be given
preference over the serious maxims.----I am not reproaching you,
Fanny, but don't stand in my way when I seek to right your injustice
and mine toward the lad.
I will block the way for you as long as a warm drop of blood beats in
me. My child would be lost in the House of Correction. A criminal
nature might be bettered in such an institution. I don't know. A fine
natured man would just as surely turn into a criminal, like the
plants when they are kept from sun and light. I am conscious of no
injustice on my part. To-day, as always, I thank heaven that it
showed me the way to awaken righteousness of character and nobility
of thought in my child. What has he done which is so frightful? It
doesn't occur to me to apologize for him----now that they have hunted
him out of school, he bears no fault! And if it was his fault he has
paid for it. You may know better. You may be entirely right
theoretically. But I cannot allow my only child to be forcibly hunted
That doesn't depend on us, Fanny. That is the risk we took with our
happiness. He who is too weak to march stops by the wayside. And, in
the end, it is not the worst when what was certain to come comes in
time to be bettered. Heaven protect us from that! It is our duty to
strengthen the loiterer as long as reason supplies a means.----That
they have hunted him out of school is not his own fault. If they
hadn't hunted him out of school, that wouldn't have been his fault,
either!----You are so lighthearted. You perceive inconsiderable
trifles when the question concerns a fundamental injury to character.
You women are not accustomed to judge such things. Anyone who can
write what Melchior wrote must be rotten to the core of his being.
The mark is plain. A half-healthy nature wouldn't do such a thing.
None of us are saints. Each of us wanders from the straight path. His
writing, on the contrary, tramples on principle. His writing is no
evidence of a chance slip in the usual way; it sets forth with
dreadful plainness and a frankly definite purpose that natural
longing, that propensity for immorality, because it is immorality.
His writing manifests that exceptional state of spiritual corruption
which we jurists classify under the term “moral imbecility.”----If
anything can be done in his case, I am not able to say. If we want to
preserve a glimmer of hope, and keep our spotless consciences as the
parents of the victim, it is time for us to go to work determinedly
in earnest.--Don't let us contend any more, Fanny! I feel how hard it
is for you. I know that you idolize him because he expresses so
entirely your genial nature. Be stronger than yourself. Show yourself
for once devoid of self-interest towards your son.
God help me, how can one get along that way! One must be a man to be
able to talk that way! One must be a man to be able to blind oneself
so with the dead letter! One must be a man to be so blind that one
can't see what stares him in the eyes. I have conscientiously and
thoughtfully managed Melchior from his first day, because I found him
impressionable to his surroundings. Are we answerable for what has
happened? A tile might fall off the roof upon your head to-morrow,
and then comes your friend--your father, and, instead of taking care
of you, tramples upon you!----I will not let my child be destroyed
before my eyes. That's the reason I'm his mother.----It is
inconceivable! It is not to be believed! What did he write, then,
after all! Isn't it the most striking proof of his harmlessness, of
his stupidity, of his childish obscurity, that he can write
so!----One must possess no intuitive knowledge of mankind----one must
be an out and out bureaucrat, or weak in intellect, to scent moral
corruption here!----Say what you will. If you land Melchior in the
House of Correction, I will get a divorce. Then let me see if I can't
find help and means somewhere in the world to rescue my child from
You must prepare yourself for it----if not to-day, then to-morrow. It
is not easy for anyone to discount misfortune. I will stand beside
you, and when your courage begins to fail will spare no trouble or
effort to relieve your heart. The future seems so gray to me, so full
of clouds----it only remains for you to leave me too.
I should never see him again: I should never see him again! He can't
bear the vulgar. He will not be able to stand the dirt. He will break
under restraint; the most frightful examples will be before his
eyes!----And if I see him again----O, God, O, God, that joyous
heart----his clear laughter----all, all,----his childish resolution
to fight courageously for good and righteousness----oh, this morning
sky, how I cherished it light and pure in his soul as my highest
good----Hold me to account if the sin cries for expiation! Hold me to
account! Do with me what you will! I will bear the guilt.----But keep
your frightful hand off the boy.
He has gone wrong!
He has not gone wrong!
He has gone wrong!----I would have given everything to be able to
spare your boundless love.----A terrified woman came to me this
morning, scarcely able to control her speech, with this letter in her
hand----a letter to her fifteen-year-old daughter. She had opened it
simply out of curiosity; the girl was not at home.----In the letter
Melchior explains to the fifteen-year-old girl that his manner of
acting left him no peace, that he had sinned against her, etc., etc.,
and that naturally he would answer for it. She must not fret herself
even if she felt results. He was already on the road after help; his
expulsion made it easier for him. The previous false step could still
lead to her happiness----and more of such irrational nonsense.
The letter is forged. It's a cheat. Somebody is trying to take
advantage of his generally known expulsion. I have not yet spoken to
the lad about it----but please look at this hand! See the writing!
An unprecedented, shameless bit of knavery!
That's what I'm afraid!
No, no----never, never!
It would be so much the better for us.----The woman, wringing her
hands, asked me what she should do. I told her she should not leave
her fifteen-year-old daughter lying about a haymow. Fortunately she
left me the letter.----If we send Melchior to another grammar school,
where he is not under parental supervision, in three weeks we shall
have the same result.----A new expulsion----his joyful heart will get
used to it after awhile.----Tell me, Fanny, where shall I send the
To the House of Correction----
House of Correction!
He will find there, in the first place, that which has been
wrongfully withheld from him at home, parental discipline,
principles, and a moral constraint to which he must submit under all
circumstances.----Moreover, the House of Correction is not a place of
terror, as you think it. The greatest weight is laid in the
establishment upon the development of Christian thought and
sensibility. The lad will learn at last to follow good in place of
desire and not to follow his natural instincts, but to observe the
letter of the law.----A half hour ago I received a telegram from my
brother that confirms the woman's statement. Melchior has confided in
him and begged him for 200 marks in order to fly to England----
(_Covering her face._)
_The House of Correction.--A corridor.--Diethelm, Rheinhold,
Ruprecht, Helmuth, Gaston and Melchior._
Here is a twenty pfennig piece!
What shall we do with it?
I will lay it on the floor. Arrange yourselves about it. Who can get
it can keep it.
Won't you join us, Melchior?
No, thank you.
He can't do anything else. He is here for recreation.
It is not wise for me to separate myself from them. They all have an
eye on me. I must join them----or the creature goes to the
devil----imprisonment drives it to suicide.----If I break my neck,
all is well!----If I escape, that is good, too! I can only win.
Ruprecht would become my friend. He has acquaintances here.----I had
better give him the chapter of Judas' daughter-in-law, Thamar, of
Moab, of Lot and his kindred, of Queen Vashti and of Abishag the
Shunammite.----He has the unhappiest physiognomy of the lot of them.
I have it!
I'll get it yet!
The day after to-morrow, perhaps.
Right away!----Now!----O God! O God!----
Summa----Summa cum laude!!
(_Taking the money._)
Here, you dog!
(_Hits him in the face._)
There! (_Runs away._)
(_Running after him._)
I'll strike you dead!
THE REST OF THEM.
Chase him! Chase him! Chase him! Chase him!
(_Alone, wandering toward the window._)
The lightning rod runs down there.----One would have to wind a pocket
handkerchief about it.----When I think of them the blood always
rushes to my head. And Moritz turns my feet to lead.----I'll go
to a newspaper. If they pay me by space I'll be a free lance!----
collect the news of the day----write----locals----ethical----
psychophysical----one doesn't starve so easily nowadays. Public
soup houses, Café Temperance----The house is sixty feet high and
the cornice is crumbling----They hate me----they hate me because
I rob them of liberty. Handle myself as I will, there remain
misdemeanors----I dare only hope in the course of the year,
gradually----It will be new moon in eight days. To-morrow I'll grease
the hinges. By Sunday evening I must find out somehow who has the
key.----Sunday evening, during prayers, a cataleptic fit----I hope to
God nobody else will be sick!----Everything seems as clear to me as
if it had happened. Over the window-frames I can reach easily--a
swing--a clutch--but one must wind a handkerchief about it.----There
comes the head inquisitor. (_Exit to the left_.)
(_Dr. Prokrustes enters from the right with a locksmith._)
The window is on the third floor and has stinging nettles planted
under it, but what do the degenerates care for stinging
nettles!----Last winter one of them got out of the trap door on the
roof, and we had the whole trouble of capturing him, bringing him
back, and locking him up again----
Do you want the grating of wrought iron?
Of wrought iron----riveted so they cannot meddle with it.
_A bedchamber.--Frau Bergmann, Ina Müller and Doctor von
Brausepulver. Wendla, in bed._
DR. VON BRAUSEPULVER.
How old are you, exactly?
Fourteen and a half.
DR. VON BRAUSEPULVER.
I have been ordering Blaud's pills for fifteen years and have noticed
astonishing results in the majority of cases. I prefer them to cod
liver oil and wine of iron. Begin with three or four pills a day, and
increase the number just as soon as you are able. I ordered Fräulein
Elfriede, Baroness von Witzleben to increase the number of them by
one, every third day. The Baroness misunderstood me and increased the
number every day by three. Scarcely three weeks later the Baroness
was able to go to Pyrmont with her mother to complete her cure.----I
will allow you to dispense with exhausting walks and extra meals;
therefore, promise me, dear child, to take frequent exercise and to
avoid unwholesome food as soon as the desire for it appears again.
Then this palpitation of the heart will soon cease----and the
headache, the chills, the giddiness----and this frightful
indigestion. Fräulein Elfriede, Baroness von Witzleben, ate a whole
roast chicken with new potatoes for her breakfast eight days after
May I offer you a glass of wine, Doctor?
DR. VON BRAUSEPULVER.
I thank you, dear Frau Bergmann, my carriage is waiting.----Do
not take it so to heart. In a few weeks our dear little patient
will be again as fresh and bright as a gazelle. Be of good
cheer.----Good-day, Frau Bergmann, good-day, dear child, good-day,
(_Frau Bergmann accompanies him to the door._)
(_At the window._)
Now your plantains are in bloom again.----Can you see that from your
bed?----A short display, hardly worth rejoicing over them, they come
and go so quickly. I, too, must go right away now. Müller is waiting
for me in front of the post-office, and I must go first to the
dressmaker's. Mucki is to have his first trousers and Karl is to have
new knit leggings for winter.
Sometimes I feel so happy----all joy and sunshine. I had not guessed
that it could go so well in one's heart! I want to go out, to go over
the meadows in the twilight, to look for primroses along the river
and to sit down on the banks and dream--Then comes the toothache, and
I feel as if I had to die the next morning at daybreak; I grow hot
and cold, it becomes dark before my eyes; and then the beast flutters
inside.----As often as I wake up, I see Mother crying. Oh, that hurts
me so.----I can't tell you how much, Ina!
Shall I lift your pillows higher?
He thinks the vomiting will soon cease; and then you can get up in
peace----I, too, think it would be better if you got up soon, Wendla.
Possibly when I visit you the next time you will be dancing around
the house again. Good-bye, Mother. I must positively go to the
dressmaker's. God guard you, Wendla dear. (_Kisses her._) A speedy,
speedy recovery! (_Exit Ina._)
What did he tell you, Mother, when he was outside?
He didn't say anything.----He said Fraülein von Witzleben was subject
to fainting spells also. It is almost always so with chlorosis.
Did he say that I have chlorosis, Mother?
You are to drink milk and eat meat and vegetables when your appetite
O, Mother, Mother, I believe I haven't chlorosis----
You have chlorosis, child. Be calm, Wendla, be calm, you have
No, Mother, no! I know it. I feel it. I haven't chlorosis. I have
You have chlorosis. He said positively that you have chlorosis. Calm
yourself, girl. You will get better.
I won't get better. I have the dropsy, I must die, Mother.----O,
Mother, I must die!
You must not die, child! You must not die--Great heavens, you must
But why do you weep so frightfully, then?
You must not die, child! You haven't the dropsy, you have a child,
girl! You have a child!----Oh, why did you do that to me!
I haven't done anything to you.
Oh don't deny it any more, Wendla!----I know everything. See, I
didn't want to say a word to you.----Wendla, my Wendla----!
But it's not possible, Mother. I'm not married yet!
Great Almighty God----that's just it, that you are not married! That
is the most frightful thing of all!----Wendla, Wendla, Wendla, what
have you done!!
God knows, I don't know any more! We lay in the hay----I have loved
nobody in the world as I do you, Mother.
O Mother, why didn't you tell me everything!
Child, child, let us not make each other's hearts any heavier! Take
hold of yourself! Don't make me desperate, child. To tell _that_ to a
fourteen-year-old girl! See, I expected that about as much as I did
the sun going out. I haven't acted any differently towards you than
my dear, good mother did toward me.----Oh, let us trust in the dear
God, Wendla; let us hope for compassion, and have compassion toward
ourselves! See, nothing has happened yet, child. And if we are not
cowardly now, God won't forsake us.----Be cheerful, Wendla, be
cheerful!----One sits so at the window with one's hands in one's lap,
while everything changes to good, and then one realizes that one
almost wanted to break one's heart----Wa----why are you shivering?
I didn't hear anything, dear heart. (_Goes and opens the door._)
But I heard it very plainly----Who is outside?
Nobody----Schmidt's Mother from Garden street.----You come just at
the right time, Mother Schmidt.
_Men and women wine-dressers in the vineyard. The sun is setting
behind the peaks of the mountains in the west. A clear sound of
bells rises from the valley below. Hans Rilow and Ernest Röbel roll
about in the dry grass of the highest plot under the overhanging
I have overworked myself.
Don't let us be sad!----It's a pity the minutes are passing.
One sees them hanging and can't manage any more----and to-morrow they
are in the wine press.
Fatigue is as intolerable to me as hunger.
Oh, I can't eat any more.
Just this shining muscatelle!
My elasticity has its limit.
If I bend down the vine, we can sway it from mouth to mouth. Neither
of us will have to disturb himself. We can bite off the grapes and
let the branches fly back to the trunk.
One hardly decides upon a thing, when, see, that vanishing power
begins to darken.
Hence the flaming firmament----and the evening bells----I promise
myself little more for the future.
Sometimes I see myself already as a worthy pastor--with a
good-natured little wife, a well-filled library and offices and
dignities all about me. For six days one has to think, and on the
seventh one opens one's mouth. When out walking, one gives one's hand
to the school-girls and boys, and when one comes home the coffee
steams, the cookies are brought out and the maids fetch apples
through the garden door.----Can you imagine anything more beautiful?
I imagine half-closed eyelids, half-open lips and Turkish
draperies.----I do not believe in pathos. Our elders show us long
faces in order to hide their stupidity. Among themselves they call
each other donkeys just as we do. I know that.----When I am a
millionaire I'll erect a monument to God.----Imagine the future as a
milkshake with sugar and cinnamon. One fellow upsets it and howls,
another stirs it all together and sweats. Why not skim off the
cream?----Or don't you believe that one can learn how?
Let us skim!
What remains the hens will eat.----I have pulled my head out of so
many traps already----
Let us skim, Hans!----Why do you laugh?
Are you beginning again already?
But one of us must begin.
Thirty years from now, on some evening like to-day, if we recall this
one, perhaps it will seem too beautiful for expression.
And how everything springs from self!
If by chance one were alone----one might like to weep!
Don't let us be sad! (_He kisses him on the mouth._)
(_Returning the kiss._)
I left the house with the idea of just speaking to you and turning
I waited for you.----Virtue is not a bad garment, but it requires an
It fits us loosely as yet.----I should not have been content if I had
not met you.----I love you, Hans, as I have never loved a soul----
Let us not be sad.----If we recall this in thirty years, perhaps we
shall make fun of it.----And yet everything is so beautiful. The
mountains glow; the grapes hang before our mouths and the evening
breeze caresses the rocks like a playful flatterer.----
_A clear November night. The dry foliage of the bushes and trees
rustles. Torn clouds chase each other beneath the moon----Melchior
clambers over the churchyard wall._
(_Springing down inside._)
The pack won't follow me here.----While they are searching the
brothels I can get my breath and discover how much I have
Coat in tatters, pockets empty----I'm not safe from the most
harmless.----I must try to get deeper into the wood to-morrow.
I have trampled down a cross----Even to-day the flowers are
frozen!----The earth is cold all around----
In the domain of the dead!----
To climb out of the hole in the roof was not as hard as this
road!----It was only there that I kept my presence of mind----
I hung over the abyss----everything was lost in it, vanished----Oh,
if I could have stayed there.
Why she, on my account!----Why not the guilty!----Inscrutable
providence!----I would have broken stones and gone hungry!----What is
to keep me straight now?----Offense follows offense. I am swallowed
up in the morass. I haven't strength left to get out of it----
I was not bad!----I was not bad!----I was not bad!----No mortal ever
wandered so dejectedly over graves before.----Pah!----I won't lose
courage! Oh, if I should go crazy----during this very night!
I must seek there among the latest ones!----The wind pipes on every
stone in a different key----an anguishing symphony!----The decayed
wreaths rip apart and swing with their long threads in bits about the
marble crosses----A wood of scarecrows!----Scarecrows on every grave,
each more gruesome than the other----as high as houses, from which
the devil runs away.----The golden letters sparkle so coldly----The
weeping willows groan and move their giant fingers over the
A praying angel----a tablet.
The clouds throw their shadows over it.----How the wind hurries and
howls!----Like the march of an army it drives in from the
east.----Not a star in the heavens----
Evergreen in the garden plot?----Evergreen?----A maiden----
HERE RESTS IN GOD
born May 5, 1878,
died from Cholorosis,
October 27, 1892.*
*Blessed are the Pure of Heart*
And I am her murderer. I am her murderer!----Despair is left me----I
dare not weep here. Away from here!----Away----
(_With his head under his arm, comes stamping over the graves._)
A moment, Melchior! The opportunity will not occur so readily again.
You can't guess what depends upon the place and the time----
Where do you come from?
From over there----over by the wall. You knocked down my cross. I lie
by the wall.----Give me your hand, Melchior.----
You are not Moritz Stiefel!
Give me your hand. I am convinced you will thank me. It won't be so
easy again! This is an unusually fortunate encounter.----I came out
Don't you sleep?
Not what you call sleep.----We sit on the church-tower, on the high
gables of the roof----wherever we please.----
Half happy.----We wander among the Mayflowers, among the lonely paths
in the woods. We hover over gatherings of people, over the scene of
accidents, gardens, festivals.----We cower in the chimneys of
dwelling-places and behind the bed curtains.----Give me your
hand.----We don't associate with each other, but we see and hear
everything that is going on in the world. We know that everything is
stupidity, everything that men do and contend for, and we laugh at
What good does that do?
What good does it have to do?----We are fit for nothing more, neither
good nor evil. We stand high, high above earthly beings--each for
himself alone. We do not associate with each other, because it would
bore us. Not one of us cares for anything which he might lose. We are
indifferent both to sorrow and to joy. We are satisfied with
ourselves and that is all. We despise the living so heartily that we
can hardly pity them. They amuse us with their doings, because, being
alive, they are not worthy of compassion. We laugh at their
tragedies--each by himself----and make reflections upon them.----Give
me your hand! If you give me your hand, you will fall down with
laughter over the sensation which made you give me your hand.
Doesn't that disgust you?
We are too high for that. We smile!----At my burial I was among the
mourners. I had a right good time. That is sublimity, Melchior! I
howled louder than any and slunk over to the wall to hold my belly
from shaking with laughter. Our unapproachable sublimity is the only
viewpoint which the trash understands----They would have laughed at
me also before I swung myself off.
I have no desire to laugh at myself.
The living, as such, are not really worth compassion!----I admit I
should not have thought so either. And now it is incomprehensible to
me how one can be so naïve. I see through the fraud so clearly that
not a cloud remains.----Why do you want to loiter now, Melchior! Give
me your hand! In the turn of a head you will stand heaven high above
yourself.----Your life is a sin of omission----
Can you forget?
We can do everything. Give me your hand! We can pity the young, who
take their timidity for idealism, and the old, who break their hearts
from stoical deliberation. We see the Kaiser tremble at a scurrilous
ballad and the lazzaroni before the youngest policeman. We ignore the
masks of comedians and see the poet in the shadow of the mask. We see
happiness in beggars' rags and the capitalist in misery and toil. We
observe lovers and see them blush before each other, foreseeing that
they are deceived deceivers. We see parents bringing children into
the world that they may be able to say to them: “How happy you are to
have such parents!”----and see the children go and do likewise. We
can observe the innocent girl in the qualms of her first love, and
the five-groschen harlot reading Schiller.----We see God and the
devil blaming each other, and cherish the unspeakable belief that
both of them are drunk----Peace and joy, Melchior! You only need to
reach me your little finger. You may become snow-white before you
have such a favorable opportunity again!
If I gave you my hand, Moritz, it would be from self-contempt.----I
see myself outlawed. What lent me courage lies in the grave. I can no
longer consider noble emotions as worthy.----And see nothing,
nothing, that can save me now from my degradation.----To myself I am
the most contemptible creature in the universe.
What delays you?----
(_A masked man appears._)
THE MASKED MAN.
You are trembling from hunger. You are not fit to judge. (_To
Moritz._) You go!
Who are you?
THE MASKED MAN.
I refuse to tell. (_To Moritz._) Vanish!----What business have you
here!----Why haven't you on your head?
I shot myself.
THE MASKED MAN.
Then stay where you belong. You are done with! Don't annoy us here
with your stink of the grave. It's inconceivable!----Look at your
fingers! Pfu, the devil! They will crumble soon.
Please don't send me away----
Who are you, sir??
Please don't send me away. Please don't. Let me stay here a bit with
you; I won't disturb you in anything----It is so dreadful down there.
THE MASKED MAN.
Why do you gabble about sublimity, then?----You know that that is
humbug----sour grapes! Why do you lie so diligently, you chimera? If
you consider it so great a favor, you may stay, as far as I am
concerned. But take yourself to leeward, my dear friend----and please
keep your dead man's hand out of the game!
Will you tell me once for all who you are, or not?
THE MASKED MAN.
No----I propose to you that you shall confide yourself to me. I will
take care of your future success.
You are----my father?
THE MASKED MAN.
Wouldn't you know your father by his voice?
THE MASKED MAN.
Your father seeks consolation at this moment in the sturdy arms of
your mother.----I will open the world to you. Your momentary lack of
resolution springs from your miserable condition. With a warm supper
inside of you, you will make fun of it.
It can only be the devil! (_Aloud._) After that of which I have been
guilty, a warm supper cannot give me back my peace!
THE MASKED MAN.
That will follow the supper!----I can tell you this much, the girl
had better have given birth. She was built properly. Unfortunately,
she was killed by the abortives given by Mother Schmidt.----I will
take you out among men. I will give you the opportunity to enlarge
your horizon fabulously. I will make you thoroughly acquainted with
everything interesting that the world has to offer.
Who are you? Who are you?----I can't trust a man that I don't know.
THE MASKED MAN.
You can't learn to know me unless you trust me.
Do you think so?
THE MASKED MAN.
Of course!----Besides, you have no choice.
I can reach my hand to my friend here at any moment.
THE MASKED MAN.
Your friend is a charlatan. Nobody laughs who has a pfennig left in
cash. The sublime humorist is the most miserable, most pitiable
creature in creation.
Let the humorist be what he may; you tell me who you are, or I'll
reach the humorist my hand.
THE MASKED MAN.
He is right, Melchior. I have boasted. Take his advice and profit by
it. No matter how masked he is----he is, at least.
Do you believe in God?
THE MASKED MAN.
Will you tell me who discovered gunpowder?
THE MASKED MAN.
Berthold Schwarz----alias Konstantin Anklitzen.----A Franciscan monk
at Freiburg in Breisgau, in 1330.
What wouldn't I give if he had let it alone!
THE MASKED MAN.
You would only have hanged yourself then.
What do you think about morals?
THE MASKED MAN.
You rascal, am I your schoolboy?
Do I know what you are?
Don't quarrel!----Please don't quarrel. What good does that
do?----Why should we sit, two living men and a corpse, together in a
churchyard at two o'clock in the morning if we want to quarrel like
topers! It will be a pleasure to me to arbitrate between you. If you
want to quarrel, I'll take my head under my arm and go!
You are the same old 'fraid cat as ever.
THE MASKED MAN.
The phantom is not wrong. One shouldn't forget one's dignity.----By
morals I understand the real product of two imaginary quantities. The
imaginary quantities are “shall” and “will.” The product is called
morals and leaves no doubt of its reality.
If you had only told me that earlier! My morals hounded me to death.
For the sake of my dear parents I killed myself. “Honor thy father
and mother that thy days may be long in the land.” The text made a
phenomenal fool of me.
THE MASKED MAN.
Give yourself up to no more illusions, dear friend. Your dear parents
would have died as little from it as you did. Judged righteously,
they would only have raged and stormed from the healthiest necessity.
That may be right as far as it goes.----I can assure you, however,
sir, that if I reach Moritz my hand, sooner or later my morals alone
will have to bear the blame.
THE MASKED MAN.
That is just the reason you are not Moritz!
But I don't believe the difference is so material, so compulsive at
least, esteemed unknown, but what by chance the same thing might have
happened to you as happened to me that time when I trotted through
the alder grove with a pistol in my pocket.
THE MASKED MAN.
Don't you remember me? You have been standing for the moment actually
between life and death.----Moreover, in my opinion, this is not
exactly the place in which to continue such a profound debate.
Certainly, it's growing cold, gentlemen! They dressed me in my Sunday
suit, but I wear neither undershirt nor drawers.
Farewell, dear Moritz. I don't know where the man is taking me. But
he is a man----
Don't blame me for seeking to kill you, Melchior. It was old
attachment. All my life I shall only be able to complain and lament
that I cannot accompany you once more.
THE MASKED MAN.
At the end everyone has his part----You the consoling consciousness
of having nothing----you an enervating doubt of everything.--
Farewell, Moritz. Take my heartfelt thanks for appearing before me
again. How many former bright days have we lived together during the
fourteen years! I promise you, Moritz, come what may, whether during
the coming years I become ten times another, whether I prosper or
fail, I shall never forget you----
Thanks, thanks, dear friend.
----and when at last I am an old man with gray hair, then, perhaps,
you will again stand closer to me than all those living about me.
I thank you. Good luck to your journey, gentlemen. Do not delay any
THE MASKED MAN.
Come, child! (_He lays his arm upon that of Melchior and disappears
with him over the graves._)
Now I sit here with my head under my arm.----The moon covers her
face, unveils herself again and seems not a hair the cleverer.----I
will go back to my place, right my cross, which that madcap trampled
down so inconsiderately, and when everything is in order I will lie
down on my back again, warm myself in the corruption and smile.
FROM A LENGTHY ESSAY IN “THE FRANKFURTER ZEITUNG.”
Wedekind's dramas are reminiscent of the pre-Shakespearian stage. But
often enough one may recall Shakespeare himself.----But we do not
wish to fall into the error of that unstable enthusiasm which always
makes comparison with the very greatest when only something
remarkable is in question. The aim of these lines is not to hail
Wedekind as the Messiah of the drama, nor as the John of a coming
Messiah. For all I care, he might be the devil himself. Only one
thing is certain: he is a power without his like among us, and where
such a power has worked once it produces after results. Power
releases power. With this drink in their bodies the public will not
long continue to support either lyrical lemonade on the stage nor the
dregs of dramatic penury.
This poet, this artist is at the same time a knower of life. One
cannot be mistaken! This is no joke. Behind all this swarm of
jumping, dancing, tumbling, contending, inflamed, agitated discourse;
behind all this pushing, roaring, foaming, gargling, flood of action,
stands intuition of the world, stands the sense of life, as made
manifest in the thoughts of Wedekind. It is no tearer, no eradicator,
no falterer, who in this frightfully beautiful bustle of passion and
inevitableness has given a picture of his own dissoluteness. He is a
poet-animal trainer, who knows and rules his beasts. A man--if you
LIST IN BELLES-LETTRES
_Published by_ BROWN BROTHERS
LAFAYETTE BUILDING, PHILADELPHIA
THE AWAKENING OF SPRING. By Frank Wedekind. A tragedy of childhood,
dealing with the sex question in its relationship to the education of
children. A new edition just out. Cloth, gilt top, deckle edge, $1.25
net. By mail, $1.35. “Here is a play which on its production caused a
sensation in Germany, and can without exaggeration be described as
remarkable. These studies of adolescence are as impressive as they
are unique.”--_The Athenæum, London._
THE CREDITOR. By August Strindberg. Translated from the Swedish by
Francis J. Ziegler. A psychological study of the divorce question by
the greatest living Scandinavian dramatist. Cloth, $1.00 net;
postage, 8 cents. “Fordringsägare” was produced for the first time in
1889, when it was given at Copenhagen as a substitute for “Fröken
Julie,” the performance of which was forbidden by the censor. Four
years later Berlin audiences made its acquaintance, since when it has
remained the most popular of Strindberg's plays in Germany.
A DILEMMA. By Leonidas Andreiyeff. Translated from the Russian by
John Cournos. Cloth, 75 cents net; postage, 7 cents. A remarkable
analysis of mental subtleties as experienced by a man who is
uncertain as to whether or not he is insane. A story that is Poe-like
in its intensity and full of grim humor. “One of the most interesting
literary studies of crime since Dostoieffsky's Crime and
Punishment.”--_Chicago Evening Post._
DISCORDS. A volume of poems by Donald Evans. With the publication of
this volume must end the oft-repeated complaint that real English
poetry is no longer being written. These poems have no sermon to
preach, no evils to arraign, no new scheme of things to propound.
They are poems written in the sincere joy of artistic creation, and
they possess a compelling music and an abiding beauty. This poet, who
is singing only for the pleasure of singing, in his sixty or more
poems that make up the volume, offers vivid glimpses of the stress
and strain of modern life. He thinks frankly, and his utterances are
full of free sweep and a passionate intensity. Dark green boards,
$1.00 net; postage, 8 cents.
SWANWHITE. By August Strindberg. A Fairy Drama, translated by Francis
J. Ziegler. Printed on deckle edge paper and attractively bound in
cloth, $1.00 net; postage, 8 cents. “A poetic idyl, which is charming
in its sweet purity, delightful in its optimism, elusive in its
complete symbolism, but wholesome in its message that pure love can
conquer evil. So out of the cold North, out of the mouth of the
world's most terrible misogynist, comes a strange message--one which
is as sweet as it is unexpected. And August Strindberg, the enemy of
love, sings that pure love is all powerful and all-conquering.”--
_Springfield, Mass., Republican._
THE WOMAN AND THE FIDDLER. A play in three acts by Arne Norrevang.
Translated from the Norwegian by Mrs. Herman Sandby. Cloth, uncut
edges, $1.00 net. By mail, $1.08. This play is based upon one of the
legends of the fiddlers who used to go about from valley to valley,
playing for the peasants at their festivities.
FOR A NIGHT. A novelette by Emile Zola. Translated from the French by
Alison M. Lederer. $1.00 net. Postage, 10 cents. The imaginative
realism, the poetic psychology, of this story of the abnormal Thérèse
who kills her lover; of the simple minded Julien who becomes an
accessory after the fact for love of her, and finally “let himself
fall” into the river, having first dropped the body of Colombel over,
are gripping and intense. The masochism at the basis of the love of
Thérèse and Colombel, resulting in the murder, is depicted with
wonderful art and yet without any coarseness. The author does not
moralize, but with relentless pen delineates that madness of Thérèse
sown in her soul from birth--a madness which her convent training
rather enhances than abrogates. The book contains two other typical
Zola stories: “The Maid of the Dawber” and “Complements”--two
delightful, crisp bits of literature.
FRÖKEN JULIE (COUNTESS JULIA). A Naturalistic Tragedy, by August
Strindberg. Cloth, $1.00 net; by mail, $1.08. _Says Mr. James
Huneker_; It is an emotional bombshell. The social world seems
topsy-turvied after a first reading. After a second, while the
gripping power does not relax, one realizes the writers deep, almost
abysmal knowledge of human nature.... Passion there is, and a
horrible atmosphere of reality. Everything is brought about
naturally, inevitably. Be it understood, Strindberg is never
pornographic, nor does he show a naked soul merely to afford a
charming diversion, which is the practice of some French dramatists.
That kitchen--fancy a kitchen as a battlefield of souls!--with its
good-hearted and pious cook, the impudent scoundrel of a valet eager
for revenge on his superiors, and the hallucinated girl from above
stairs--it is a tiny epic of hatred, of class against mass.
THE LIVING CORPSE (ZHIVOI TRUP). A Drama in six Acts and twelve
Tableaux, by Count Leo N. Tolstoi. Cloth, $1.00 net; by mail, $1.08.
There is no question as to the tremendous power and simple
impressiveness of this posthumous work, which is the literary
sensation of the day not alone in Russia, but throughout Europe. As a
protest against certain marriage and divorce laws, the absurdity of
which is portrayed with a satiric pen, “The Living Corpse” is a most
SUCH IS LIFE. A Play in five Acts, by Frank Wedekind, Author of “The
Awakening of Spring,” etc. Cloth, gilt top, raw edge, Net, $1.25, by
Mail, $1.34. Whatever Wedekind's theme may be, it is always sure to
be treated in a strikingly original fashion. In “_Such is Life_” it
is _Regality and Kingship_. Though the _locale_ is mediaeval Italy,
the scene might as well have been laid at the present day, but this
was, perhaps, too dangerous. While satire runs as an undercurrent
throughout, the play is primarily one of tense dramatic situations
and a clearly outlined plot, full of color and action. Portions of
the play are written in verse--verse that runs with almost
Elizabethan fire and impetuosity.
MODERN AUTHORS' SERIES:
Under this title appear from time to time short stories and dramas,
chiefly translations from the works of modern European authors, each
containing from 32 to 64 pages. Printed in large, clear type and
tastefully bound in gray boards with paper label. Each, 25 cents net;
by mail, 29 cents. Now ready:
SILENCE. From the Russian of Leonidas Andreiyeff. Second edition. An
unusual short story that reads like a poem in prose by the leading
exponent of the new Russian school of novelists.
MOTHERLOVE. From the Swedish of August Strindberg. An example of
Strindberg's power as analyst of human nature.
A RED FLOWER. By Vsevolod Garshin. A powerful short story by one of
Russia's popular authors, unknown as yet to the English-speaking
THE GRISLEY SUITOR. From the German of Frank Wedekind. An excellent
story of the De-Maupassant type.
RABBI EZRA AND THE VICTIM. By Frank Wedekind. Two sketches
characteristic of the pen of this noted German author.
 An aromatic herb, used in preparing a beverage drunk in Spring
 “Man möchte glauben, die ganze Welt drehe sich um P---- und
In this eBook, words that were originally printed in a blackletter
typeface are marked with *asterisks*.
The following printer's errors have been corrected:
predeliction changed to predelection
woollen changed to woolen
decollete changed to décolleté
mochte changed to möchte
missing opening quotation mark at the beginning of a footnote
fulness changed to fullness
Nuptual changed to Nuptial
incontrovertable changed to incontrovertible
Lammermeier changed to Lämmermeier
wilful changed to willful
postoffice changed to post-office
leggins changed to leggings
penomenal changed to phenomenal
Shakesperian changed to Shakespearian
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